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India Projected as Most Populous Nation

From Times Wire Services

India is expected to surpass China as the world’s most populous nation, while the United States is expected to fall from fourth place to seventh in the global population count over the coming century, new population studies project.

Worldwide population is expected to top 10.4 billion by the end of the 21st Century, more than double the current 4.9 billion, according to the reports released Wednesday by the private, Washington-based Population Reference Bureau.

“While growth rates have declined, (the) annual absolute increase in population continues to mount in many countries and will be large for several decades before tapering off,” said Thomas W. Merrick, president of the private group, reinforcing similarly alarming trends initially identified in 1984 by the U.N. Fund for Population Activities.

“Most of the large future increase in the world’s population will occur in (less developed countries), including some of the poorest regions of the world--sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia,” Merrick said in his study, which was titled “World Population in Transition.” Its release was accompanied by an annual data sheet.

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“For the developing countries,” he went on, “it is a question of whether they will evolve into a kind of permanent underclass at the bottom of a two-tiered world economy.

“For the more developed countries, now approaching population stabilization . . . it may be difficult to continue as islands of prosperity in a sea of poverty in a world made smaller by modern transportation and communication.”

Drop in Chinese Fertility

China’s sometimes Draconian efforts to reduce population growth are expected to show some success, according to these projections. In China, the report said, fertility dropped sharply to replacement level, 2.1 children per woman, in 1984 in the wake of a controversial one-child-per-family campaign.

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However, India’s continuing increases--despite widespread birth-control programs--will result in its surpassing China and becoming the world’s most populous country. India is expected to grow from its current population of at least 740 million people to 1.63 billion in 2100. Over the same period, China’s population is anticipated to increase from 1.05 billion to 1.57 billion.

The Soviet Union, currently No. 3 with more than 270 million people, will likely grow to 375 million, but still will drop to fourth in the projections. It will be surpassed by Nigeria, growing from perhaps 100 million at present, (eighth worldwide, to more than 500 million people in 2100.

The United States, currently fourth with 240 million people, is projected to drop to seventh place by 2100, despite an increase to 308.7 million.

Fertility is declining in some developing countries, the report said. “But most have a way to go to reach replacement level, although the United Nations projects most will be there, or close to it, by 2025,” it added.

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The report took note of the debate between those who stress “limits to growth,” a view that regards sharply rising population as an obstacle to development in poor nations, and the now-vocal “growth optimists,” who argue that population growth can be a stimulus to economic development.


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