Millennium Post

Demographic fortune

According to a study published in the reputed medical journal Lancet, India will have the third-largest economy in the world by 2050, placing behind China and the US. The Lancet study based its conclusion upon working-age population comparisons and translating their effects on GDP. Using 2017 as the base year, the study states that India will become the fourth-largest economy by 2030 and the third largest, ahead of Japan, by 2050.

On the whole, the study reiterates conclusions made by many different research organisations and groups previously. The Indian Government's officially stated aspirations also conform to such a belief. The only difference is the time estimates that have been given. For instance, in 2019, a study by the Japan Centre for Economic Research in 2019 concluded the same but expected India to overtake Japan by 2029. What has changed since then is unquestionably a matter of the sheer devastation caused by the ongoing pandemic. The pandemic — which the Asian Development Bank estimated could cost USD 8.8 trillion worth of losses to the global economy back in May — has waylaid the economic progress of all nations with research showing that only China would see positive GDP growth among the G20 countries during this period. For India, this has meant that it's much-vaunted goal of becoming a USD 5 trillion economy by 2025 has had to see an adjustment in the timeline. There are grim expectations by market experts that India is headed towards the worst recession it has ever experienced since its independence with some going so far as to whisper of India possibly facing its first-ever depression. Regardless of the severity of the estimations, experts agree that India's economic woes will not be addressed quickly and could play a factor in slowing the economy for years to come with a contraction possibly going past 2020 and well into 2021-22.

In the midst of this scenario of doom and gloom, this report speaks of India's rise by basing itself on India's much-touted demographic advantage which has yielded India one of the largest working-age populations in the world. The study predicts that India will continue to retain and build upon this advantage in the future with the result that by 2100, not only will India be the most populous nation in the world but it will also have the largest working population as well. This is the defining factor for India's rise in a global scenario which is otherwise not altogether positive. In fact, while India is predicted to have the largest working population by 2100, Lancet has predicted that the working population and the general population will, in fact, be in a period of decline in 2100. An earlier study by the Lancet had estimated that India's population would peak by 2048 at around 1.6 billion and then steadily decline 32 per cent by 2100. This pattern, to varying degrees, would be mimicked in other nations across the world with the result that India, Nigeria, China and US will not only have the largest populations but also the largest working populations. While the first three are expected to keep a total fertility rate that will make such a scenario possible, the US will, on the other hand, likely rely on immigration to keep pace with the other three.

The study bases this prediction on emerging factors like growth in female education, increased access to contraception and other social and geopolitical factors that are expected to hold great significance in the future. The paper concludes its assertion by advising the nations of the world to be ready to make timely policy adaptations to the changing scenario of low fertility while working to sustain and enhance female reproductive health. In the Indian context, this reiterates Lancet's stance that India cannot achieve its significant potential as a nation unless it addresses the shortfalls in individual health outcomes of its most vital resource, its population.

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