Population control

On July 11, World Population Day, a Union Minister expressed concern about “population explosion” in the country, and suggest about population control laws and annulling the voting rights of those having more than two children.

The United Nations released the 26th revision of World Population Prospects and forecast that India will overtake China as the most populous country by 2027.

Contradiction with Economic Survey

  • The Survey notes that India is set to witness a "sharp slowdown in population growth in the next two decades".
  • The fact is that by the 2030s, some States will start transitioning to an ageing society as part of a well-studied process of "demographic transition" which sees nations slowly move toward a stable population as fertility rates fall with an improvement in social and economic development indices over time.
  • Population growth in India has been slowing in recent decades from an annual growth rate of 2.5 per cent during 1971-81 to an estimated 1.3 percent as of 2011-16.
  • India’s demographic dividend will peak around 2041, when the share of working-age, i.e. 20-59 years, population is expected to hit 59 per cent.

Even the UN revises its population projections every two years. In 2015, it was predicted that India would overtake China in 2022, but in the 2019 projections it is 2027. The UN has revised India’s expected population size in 2050 downward from 1,705 million in 2015 projections to 1,639 million in 2019 projections. This is due to faster than expected fertility decline, which is good news by all counts.

Reason For Population Explosion

  • As the National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16) notes, women in the lowest wealth quintile have an average of 1.6 more children than women in the highest wealth quintile, translating to a total fertility rate of 3.2 children versus 1.5 children moving from the wealthiest to the poorest.
  • Women with no schooling have an average 3.1 children, compared with 1.7 children for women with 12 or more years of schooling.
  • Those having little access to health and education being caught in a cycle of poverty, leading to more and more children, and the burden that state control on number of children could impose on the weakest.
  • The poor tend to have more children because child survival is low, son preference remains high, children lend a helping hand in economic activity for poorer households and so support the economic as well as emotional needs of the family. This is well known, well understood and well established.

The National Population Policy, 2000:

The NPP 2000 provides a policy framework for advancing goals and prioritizing strategies during the next decade, to meet the reproductive and child health needs of the people of India, and to achieve net replacement levels (TFR) by 2010.

It is based upon the need to simultaneously address issues of child survival, maternal health, and contraception, while increasing outreach and coverage of a comprehensive package of reproductive and child health services by government, industry and the voluntary non-government sector, working in partnership.

Is strict law related to population control good?

The demand for state controls on the number of children a couple can have is not a new one. It feeds on the perception that a large and growing population is at the root of a nation’s problems as more and more people chase fewer and fewer resources.

  • Having instituted a one-child policy in 1979, China’s female population in peak reproductive ages (between 15 and 39 years) is estimated at 235 million (2019) compared to 253 million for India. Thus, even if India could institute a policy that reduces its fertility rate to the Chinese level, India will overtake China as the most populous country.
  • According to the economic survey, we are heading toward the stable population growth. So, we don’t need to implement two child policy in India.
  • People have children, not birth rates and few incentives or disincentives are powerful enough to overcome the desire for children.


India will reign as the most populous country throughout most of the 21st century. We should use this demographic destiny in a way that contributes to the long-term welfare of the nation.

In order to maximise the demographic dividend, we must invest in the education and health of the workforce, particularly in States whose demographic window of opportunity is still more than a decade away.

It is time for India to accept the fact that being the most populous nation is its destiny. It must work towards enhancing the lives of its current and future citizens.

Current Affairs analysis