Speed Reads

Taking the Top Spot

India to become world's most populous country in mid-2023, U.N. says

India will surpass China as the world's most populous country by mid-2023, according to new data released by the United Nations on Wednesday. 

The data, published in the U.N.'s 'State of World Population Report,' predicts that India's population will reach 1.4286 billion sometime this year, 2.9 million more people than China's estimated population of 1.4257 billion.

Coming in a distant third is the United States, which will have an estimated population of 340 million. 

China and India have long been the two countries with the largest populations, but China's population fell in 2022 for the first time in more than 60 years, Reuters reported. While population growth has been declining in both nations, China's has been falling much faster than India's, paving the way for the latter to pass its neighbor. 

The U.N.'s new estimate marks a dramatic jump in the timeline for India to take the crown from China. It was just a few years ago that India was not predicted to become the world's most populous country until the late 2020s, The Associated Press noted, but "the timing has been sped up by a drop in China's fertility rate, with families having fewer children." India, on the other hand, has "a much younger population, a higher fertility rate, and has seen a decrease in infant mortality over the last three decades." 

However, India has not held a ten-year census since 2011, as the 2021 census was postponed due to COVID-19. As a result, U.N. officials acknowledged that this new data was a loose prediction, and could change at any time. 

Any specific numbers about India's population are "naïve assumptions based on fragmental information," Patrick Gerland, the U.N. Chief of Population Estimates and Projection, told BBC News, adding, "We don't have real official data coming out from India."