With India set to become most populous nation, a prosperity lesson

Source: This post is based on the article “With India set to become most populous nation, a prosperity lesson” published in the Indian Express on 17th July 2022.

Syllabus: GS 1 – Population and associated issues.

Relevance: Population control policies.

News: Three years ago, the UN Population Prospects (2019) projected that India will surpass China’s population by 2027. But the latest United Nations report, “Population Prospects” forecasts that India will surpass China’s population by 2023 and also reach 1.5 billion by 2030 and 1.66 billion by 2050.

What are the socio-economic reforms carried out by China?
Economic Reforms

Agriculture: China started its economic reforms in 1978 with a primary focus on agriculture. It broke away from the commune system and liberated agri-markets from myriad controls.

During 1978-84, China’s agri-GDP grew by 7.1% per annum and farmers’ real incomes grew by 14% per annum with the liberalisation of agri-prices. As farmers’ real incomes doubled, poverty fell by half in just six years.

Industries: Enhanced incomes of rural people created a huge demand for industrial products. The aim of China’s manufacturing through Town and Village Enterprises (TVEs) was basically to meet the surging demand from the hinterlands.

One-child policy: China introduced the one-child per family policy in 1980, which lasted till early 2016. This policy led to a rapid increase in per capita incomes. Chinese population growth today is just 0.1 per cent per annum compared to India’s 1.1 per cent per annum.

Socio-Economic benefit: In 1978, when China embarked on its economic reforms, its per capita income was at $156.4 which was way below that of India at $205.7. Today, China is more than six times ahead of India in terms of per capita income – China’s per capita income in 2021 was $12,556, while that of India was $1,933 in 2020.

Must read: The UN World Population Prospects Report and Population Issues in India – Explained, pointwise
Why India is lagging behind China in Agriculture?

Over a 40-year period, 1978-2018, China’s agriculture has grown at 4.5% per annum while India’s agri-GDP growth ever since reforms began in 1991 has hovered at around 3% per annum.

Market and price liberalisation in agriculture still remains a major issue. For instance, the government did not promote exports and impose stock limits on traders, and suspend futures markets. All this strangles markets.

All this is reflected in the “implicit taxation” of farmers to favour the vocal lobby of consumers, especially the urban middle class.

Must read: Population control measures in India – Explained, pointwise
How India can control the population, and what are the challenges and impacts?

The only way is through effective education, especially that of the girl child, open discussion and dialogue about family planning methods and conversations about the benefits of small family size in society. But this has the following challenges,

Low education: As per the National Family Health Survey-5 (2019-21), of all the girls and women above the age of 6 years, only 16.6% were educated for 12 years or more.

Poor quality: Several ASER reports point to the poor quality of education in India.

Low-level income trap: The NFHS-5 data shows that more than 35% of our children below the age of five are stunted, which means their earning capacity will remain hampered throughout life. They will remain stuck in a low-level income trap.

With this dismal status of women’s health and education, the future of children in India is itself a challenge.

Read more: Measures to control population in India
How India can prosper?

India needs a) A focused and aggressive campaign launched to educate the girl child and provide her with more than 12 years of good quality education, b)  An increase in subsidy for the education of the girl child.

This will significantly boost the labour participation rate of women, which is currently at a meagre 25%, and lead to “double engine” growth.

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