Is India's population boom a blessing or a curse?

India's expected status as the most populous nation on earth hasn't come without some growing pains

People crowd on platforms at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station in Mumbai
(Image credit: PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP via Getty Images)

India's population, more than 1.4 billion, has surpassed that of mainland China, new United Nations data released this week showed. By summer, it will have about 2.9 million more people than the mainland and Hong Kong combined, according to the U.N. Population Fund's 2023 "State of World Population Report." China's aging population — a "hangover" from its decades-long one-child policy, according to The New York Times — fell last year for the first time in six decades, and it is expected to keep declining and finish the century at less than half its current level. India's population is projected to keep growing for decades. It has increased 1.2 percent a year, on average, since 2011. That was down from 1.7 percent in the previous decade.

India recently overtook the United Kingdom, its former colonizing power, as the world's fifth-largest economy. Global corporations see it as a huge market — Apple just opened its first store there in a push to sell more iPhones — and a manufacturing powerhouse that offers an alternative to China, after that country's COVID lockdowns disrupted supply chains that were overly dependent on its goods. Many leading business and political figures see India's increasing numbers as a blessing that will improve its fortunes and increase its global political and economic power.

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Harold Maass, The Week US

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at The Week. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 debut of the U.S. print edition and served as editor of when it launched in 2008. Harold started his career as a newspaper reporter in South Florida and Haiti. He has previously worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, ABC News and Fox News, and for several years wrote a daily roundup of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance.