India on course to overtake China as world’s most populous country: UN

People photographed in Bengaluru, Karnataka, India. According to the UN, India is home to over 1.4 billion people.

Peter Adams | Stone | Getty Images

India is on track to overtake China as the planet’s most populous country next year, according to a UN report published on Monday.

The report, from the population division of the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said China and India were each home to over 1.4 billion people in 2022.

“India is projected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country during 2023,” the UN said. The Indian government’s census for 2011 put the country’s population at more than 1.2 billion.

“The global human population will reach 8.0 billion in mid-November 2022 from an estimated 2.5 billion people in 1950,” according to the UN’s report.

Looking further ahead, the UN said its latest projections showed the global population could reach roughly 8.5 billion in 2030 and 10.4 billion in 2100.

Last year, the UN said that the “average fertility” of the planet’s population amounted to 2.3 births per woman across a lifetime.

This compares to approximately 5 births per woman in 1950, according to Monday’s report. “Global fertility is projected to decline further to 2.1 births per woman by 2050,” it said.

The UN’s report was released on World Population Day. In a statement, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the day represented “an occasion to celebrate our diversity, recognize our common humanity, and marvel at advancements in health that have extended lifespans and dramatically reduced maternal and child mortality rates.”

“At the same time, it is a reminder of our shared responsibility to care for our planet and a moment to reflect on where we still fall short of our commitments to one another,” Guterres said.

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With a huge population and a major economy, India’s need for resources in the years ahead will become increasingly pressing. On Monday, Reuters, citing information from Refinitiv and trade sources, said June saw the country’s coal imports reach “a record high.”

The deal reached at the COP26 climate change summit in Nov. 2021 faced stumbling blocks related to the phasing out of coal, fossil fuel subsidies and financial support to low-income countries.

India and China, both among the world’s biggest burners of coal, insisted on a last-minute change of fossil fuel language in the Glasgow Climate Pact — from a “phase out” of coal to a “phase down.” After initial objections, opposing countries ultimately granted.

— CNBC’s Sam Meredith contributed to this report.

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