China's population is projected to peak at slightly less than 1.4 billion in 2026, both earlier and at a lower level than previously projected. Meanwhile, India's population is projected to surpass China's population in 2025, according to new data being released by the U.S. Census Bureau.
These figures come from the population estimates and projections for 227 countries and areas released today through the Census Bureau's International Data Base. This release includes revisions for 21 countries, including China.
The latest projections indicate that by 2026, the population of China will begin to decline. Population growth in China, the world's most populous country, is slowing and currently stands at 0.5 percent annually. China surpassed the 1.2 billion population mark in 1994 and reached 1.3 billion in 2006.
According to the latest revisions, India is projected to become the world's most populous country in 2025. The population growth rate in India currently is about 1.4 percent, nearly three times that of China. The difference in the growth rate between the two countries is explained by fertility. India's total fertility rate -- the number of births a woman is expected to have in her lifetime -- is currently estimated at 2.7 and projected to decline slowly, and that is driving population growth in the country.
The slowdown in China's population growth is the result of declining fertility. China's total fertility rate is estimated to have been 2.2 in 1990, 1.8 in 1995 and less than 1.6 since 2000. China's fertility rate is currently half a birth below that of the United States, which is more than two births per woman. Key evidence for the new fertility estimates comes from analysis of data from China's recent census and surveys.
One of the consequences to China's declining fertility rate is that the number of new entrants to China's labor force may be near its peak. The population ages 20-24 is projected to peak at 124 million in 2010. This peak is earlier than in India, which is projected to reach 116 million in 2024.
Despite a shrinking younger population, China's labor force may continue to grow for several years since the population ages 20 to 59 (prime working ages) is not expected to peak until 2016 at 831 million, an increase of 24 million from the current estimated level. "These changes in China's age structure may affect its economic growth and competitiveness in the world market," said Daniel Goodkind, demographer in the Census Bureau's Population Division.
Given that China and India together account for 37 percent of the world's population, their demographic trends have major implications for worldwide population change.
The Census Bureau's International Data Base includes projections by sex and age to 100-plus for 227 countries and other areas with populations of 5,000 or more and provides information on population size and growth, mortality, fertility and net migration.