China population declines, giving India chance to rise

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By S Jha

New Delhi, June 7: The Chinese fertility rate has slumped to 1.15 births per woman. Indian fertility rate has also declined from 2.20 to 2 births per woman. China had turned population to its advantage to become the world’s factory. India seems looking at opportunity to gain from China’s loss of advantage.

China added just 4,80,000 to its population last year.   India is adding over 1.35 crore to its overall population each year. It would be only after 2035 that India would be adding less than one crore to its population when the annual growth would come somewhat around 0.60 per cent from the current about one per cent.

The Chinese population has slipped off the rising curve, with its 1.15 fertility rate being lower than even 1.30 of Japan. The Chinese regime’s all efforts to incentivise people to bear children after adopting the three child policy in 2016 has failed to arrest the declining fertility rate trend.

The latest National Family Health Survey, based on sample survey, has pegged the Indian fertility rate at 2 births per woman, below 2.1 rate for stabilising population.

The gender ratio in China is skewed against women. A number of Chinese provinces have 100 males against 120 and in some cases even 130 males, which also explains the dip in fertility rate to 1.15.

In India, the gender ratio is also against women, but the gap isn’t too large, with there being about 108 males against 100 females. Some of the states in the northern parts of the country have poor gender ration record.

However, several initiatives, including Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, backed by financial incentives by the Central and the state governments, are seen to be improving the sex ration in the 0-6 age group. This trend puts India decisively on a healthier population growth path, which may save the country from losing substantial chunk of the working population in the coming decades.

This contrast builds a strong case to go aggressively in scaling up its economic profile in the backdrop of clear inclinations from the developed countries to look for China alternative for resilient supply chain.

The just concluded Quad Summit in Tokyo has committed a USD 50 billion fund to scale up infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific region. India is a key pivot of the Indi-Pacific, with cordial relations with the constituent countries.

Also, important is the fact that the developed world even before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic had been wary of the ageing workforce of China, which to some extent has helped Bangladesh, Philippines, and some of the states in India to scale up their textile industries.

But the real opportunities would be in scaling the contract manufacturing capacity along with rapid skilling of the workforce to wean away the electronics and other manufacturing from China. South-east Asian countries may not be able to match the resilience of the Indian workforce, which should be an opportunity for India.

Indeed, the host of production linked incentive schemes in several areas such as pharmaceutical, electronics, semi-conductor, etc., are giving promises that India could become an alternative. Yet, the speed is tad slow, and measures on war-footing may be required.

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