English Across the Curriculum

Discover India

India's Population Problems

People with different cultures and languages have been living together in India for thousands of years. While there are hundreds of different languages on the subcontinent the official language is Hindi, while most people speak English too. About 80% of the Indian population is Hindu. Muslims are the biggest minority.

Today India is the home to over 1 billion people. By 2050 it will surpass China as the most populous country in the world. Experts think that India will reach a total of 1.8 billion before population growth begins to decrease. In contrast to China’s one-child policy, family planning in India has not been consistent. In the 1970s and 80s the government tried to control population growth by forcing people to have sterilizations. Today, however, there are signs that population growth is slowing down. Contraception is becoming widely available in many areas and especially Indian women in rural areas are being more educated.

Every Indian woman gets almost 3 children, compared to a little over one child per family in the west. As in many Asian societies children are needed to do work and care for family members when they get older. Boys are more valuable than girls, who marry at an early age. About a third of India’s population is under 14, which makes it one of the youngest countries on earth. Apart from that India still has the largest proportion of people who cannot read and write.

Indian population compared to China

Flower Market in Calcutta
Image: Peter Andersen, CC BY-SA 3.0,
via Wikimedia Commons

More than 70% of Indian people live in the countryside, in smaller villages and towns. As the rural population is becoming poorer more and more people are moving to the big cities where they live in overcrowded slums with no electricity or clean water. As a result, cities like Mumbai, Calcutta and New Delhi are exploding with people they have no jobs for.

Overpopulation in India is causing even more problems. An increasing population living on the same land will quickly use up the limited resources the country has. Medical conditions are getting worse and diseases are spreading faster. More and more Indians are living below the poverty line.

Slums in Mumbai
Image : Sthitaprajna Jena, CC BY-SA 2.0,
via Wikimedia Commons