Population ageing: the paradox between Japan, China and India

China may no longer be the most populated nation in the world, but perhaps it has been overtake by India.

by Lorenzo Ciotti
Population ageing: the paradox between Japan, China and India

Japanese premier Fumio Kishida spoke of the worrying drop in births in Japan. Japan is the country with the oldest population in the world, followed by Italy. After the pessimistic data on birth and death rates from China, another Asian country is dealing with a declining birth rate and an aging population.

Since 1975, the Japanese population has almost always been in constant decline due to declining births and strict restrictions on immigration. China may no longer be the most populated nation in the world, but perhaps it has been overtaken by India.

Last year Japan counted 800,000 fewer births for the first time, despite the sharp inversion of the population curve was expected in 2030. The decline in birth rates in Japan can be linked to various phenomena typical of fast-growing economies.

The rising cost of living, greater participation of women in education and work, and greater access to contraception are some of the factors that have led to a lowering of the curve of new births in the Japanese archipelago.

As is the case in China and South Korea, population aging and falling birth rates will have wider repercussions on the economy of individual countries, but also on the living conditions of the population in the long run.

Even before China admitted its demographic decline, demographic projections drawn up by the United Nations in July last year predicted that India's population would surpass that of China by 2023. From 450 million inhabitants in 1960 to over 1.4 billion today, Indian growth has been rapid , uneven and marked by a slight slowdown in recent years: from a fertility rate of 5.9 in 1960 to 2.24 in 2020, with enormous differences between rural and urban areas, and between the north and south of the country.

Experts therefore do not foresee the same demographic contraction for India as in China: on the contrary, the National Commission on the population of Delhi foresees an increase up to 1.52 billion people by 2036, while the United Nations estimates that the peak in 2064 with 1.7 billion inhabitants.

Over the next decade, a third of the population increase will be driven by just two northern states, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. In Bihar, a woman still gives birth to three or more children, while demographic stability, defined by a fertility rate of 2.1, should only be reached in 2039, a level that Kerala, one of the country's most developed states, achieved in 1998.

What everyone is wondering is whether the Indian government will be able to meet the challenges posed by such fast and unequal growth: the average age in India is 28.4 years, female participation in the labor force was only 19% in 2021, while youth unemployment is stuck at 23%.