India’s population is growing at the fastest rate in nearly 20 years, but a report has warned that the country is now “in a period of rapid growth” and could be heading for a “severe” recession in the coming years.
A report by the Population Council, an international organisation that tracks population trends, found that the number of Indian adults aged 65 and above is set to reach 1.8 billion in 2020, a rise of 40 per cent from the year before.
The figures have been published on Wednesday as the country prepares to hold its first national census, which is due to be held in January 2021.
India’s population has grown by 7.5 per cent since 2000 and it has more than 2.5 billion people, about one-quarter of the world’s population.
The Population Council said in its latest report that India’s fertility rate, the number that people are producing per woman, has been falling for the past decade, and that “the proportion of people aged 65-plus has increased from 7 per cent to about 10 per cent”.
“The population growth will slow as we reach the point where we are facing a severe recession,” the report said.
“This could be as early as 2021 or 2022.
It is likely that the overall economic outlook will deteriorate.”
The report said that “over the past two decades, population growth has slowed sharply as a result of the economic reforms and social welfare programs introduced in recent years, the economic slowdown of 2008-09, the slow pace of economic growth in the global economy, and the impact of the pandemic”.
“In the absence of significant public policy interventions, India’s current growth trajectory is likely to continue to slow down,” it added.
“The projected population growth of India will continue to fall over the coming decades.”
The population of India is set for a slow decline due to rising deaths, according to the report.
In the past three years, more than 6 million people have died, and more than 20 million people are considered to be underweight, the report noted.
It said the number in the underweight category will double from 1.5 million to 3 million in 2045.
The report highlighted how India’s health system is in “chronic crisis” and that the state is “not doing enough to combat malnutrition and diabetes”.
The report also warned that there was a “lack of information and awareness” in India about the risks of being overweight or obese, as well as that people with diabetes may not be taking the right care.
“It is essential that we make sure that the right people are getting the right interventions,” said Anupam Khanna, the Population and Society Director at the Population Centre, an NGO in New Delhi.
The latest report said India is “heading towards an economic recession” with a 10 percent drop in economic activity in 2021, followed by a 13 per cent drop in 2022.
It also noted that in 2020 the country’s gross domestic product contracted by 7 per for the year, while gross domestic products in 2022 fell by 6 per cent.
The growth rate of the population has slowed to just 1.7 per cent in 2021 and is expected to slow further to just 0.8 per cent this year.
It is predicted that the population will fall to 1.4 billion in 2021 from 1 billion in 2022, the Report said.
“It is likely, however, that the economic growth will not accelerate much and will slow down as we approach the point of severe recession.”