The World is Getting Older. Can India cope?


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The World is Getting Older. Can India cope? Blog Image

Why in News?

  • Demographics are a critical aspect of understanding the trajectory of human civilisation. Therefore, the future of humanity has been a topic of particular concern and speculation.
  • The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report from 2019 and the India Aging Report of 2023 provide valuable insights into the global and Indian demographic landscapes and how it will lead to geopolitical reorganisation of nations.

An Analysis of Global Demographic Trends

  • Findings of UNFPA
    • In 2019, the UNFPA reported that India would soon surpass China as the most populous country in the world.
    • The report forecasted that between 2027 and 2050, India, along with several other nations including Nigeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia, United States, etc., would witness the highest population growth.
    • Together, they would constitute over half of the world's population. Simultaneously, the population of Sub-Saharan Africa was projected to double by 2050.
  • A Report by IMF (International Monetary Fund)
    • However, an essential global demographic trend highlighted by IMF is the greying of the world's population.
    • This phenomenon results from increasing longevity, declining fertility rates, and the aging of larger cohorts.
    • In contrast to the 1970s, where there were more adolescents and young adults (15 to 24-year-olds) than older individuals, by 2050, these age groups are expected to be on par globally.
    • Japan is an example, with over 28% of its population aged 65 and above.

Demographic Landscape in India

  • UNFPA India Ageing Report 2023
    • The report declares that globally, there are 1.1 billion persons aged 60 years and above in 2022, comprising 13.9 per cent of the total population of 7.9 billion.
    • Over the next three decades, the number of older persons worldwide is expected to double to 2.1 billion by 2050, with the share rising to 22 per cent of the total population.
    • In 2022, there were 149 million persons aged 60 years and above in India, comprising about 10.5 per cent of the country’s population.
    • By 2050, the share of older persons will double to 20.8 per cent, with the absolute number at 347 million.
    • The report points out that the unprecedented rise in the ageing population will have significant implications for health, economy, and society in India.
  • The National Family Health Survey 2022
    • It showed that except for Uttar Pradesh and Bihar (amongst the larger states) fertility levels elsewhere have dropped below the replacement level of 2.1.
    • In urban India, the fertility rate is at 1.6, which is comparable to that of the developed world.
    • This is below replacement level, and combined with increased longevity, will ensure that the elderly constitute a significant segment of our population.

A Comparative Analysis of Challenges Posed by Declining Fertility in Developed and Developing Countries

  • Fertility Rates
    • Developing countries are experiencing a faster drop in fertility rates earlier in their development compared to developed nations.
    • In contrast, developed countries had higher per capita income levels when their populations began to age, making it easier to handle economic pressures.
  • The Economic Context
    • Developed countries had a larger economic base to support their aging populations.
    • Developing countries like India face challenges due to a smaller economic pie to support their elderly populations.
  • Dependency Ratios
    • The UNFPA provides statistics on the old age dependency ratio, emphasising that it could double in some developing countries within 50 years, while it took much longer in the developed world.
    • This points out the rapid demographic shift occurring in developing countries.
    • The report specifically situates India within this context, forecasting a 41% growth in the elderly population (people over 60 years) between 2021 and 2031.
    • It predicts that the number of elderly people will surpass the number of children (those below 15 years) by 2046 in India.
  • Implications of Ageing Population
    • While developed countries had more time and resources to prepare for the challenges posed by an aging population, developing countries like India face a more immediate and potentially severe impact.
    • For developing countries, an aging population means fewer workers and taxpayers, which can reduce a country's ability to generate wealth.
    • It also places additional burdens on healthcare systems due to increased healthcare needs of the elderly.

Population and Geopolitics

  • Rise and Decline of China Due to Population
    • According to a study on the population decline, published in Lancet in 2020, China is expected to replace the United States by 2035 in terms of the largest total gross domestic product (GDP).
    • However, the rapid decline in China’s population means that the United States will reclaim the top position soon since its population will grow consistently if sustained by liberal immigration policies.
  • The World will be Multipolar
    • According to the Lancet report, by the end of this century the world will be multipolar, with India, Nigeria, China, and the US as the dominant powers, supported in great part by their working age populations.
    • The immigration and strong reproductive and sexual rights for women will be key as the world will undergo radical shifts in geopolitical power.
  • The Influence of Europe and Asia will Decline
    • By 2100, most of the fastest shrinking populations will be in Asia and Europe which will decline the influence of Asia and Europe in geopolitics.
    • For instance, China will decline from 1.4 billion in 2017 to 732 million people in 2100, Thailand from 71 million to 35 million, Italy from 61 million to 31 million and Japan from 128 million to 60 million.


  • Respected institutions have highlighted specific trends in the context of the population of human species; that as a species we are getting older and we will diminish in number. 
  • By the turn of the century, India will have declined in numbers and will have a substantial senior citizen
  • The change in population will result in a geopolitical reorganisation of the order of nations.The important question is whether India is prepared for this change in her demographics?

Q1) What is CMIE?

CMIE, or Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, is a leading business information company. It was established in 1976, primarily as an independent think tank. Today, CMIE has a presence over the entire information food-chain - from large scale primary data collection and information product development through analytics and forecasting. It provides services to the entire spectrum of business information consumers including governments, academia, financial markets, business enterprises, professionals and media.

Q2) What is the demographic dividend?

Demographic Dividend meaning – It is the potential for economic gains when the share of the working-age population (15 years – 64 years) is higher than the non-working age group. Demographic dividend occurs when the proportion of working people in the total population is high because this indicates that more people have the potential to be productive and contribute to growth of the economy.

Source: The Indian Express