STORY: As the world’s population hits the 8 billion mark,
India is bursting at the seams, and its likely to surpass China as the world’s most populous country in 2023.
With their already crammed transport and overcrowded public spaces, cities like the capital, New Delhi, and the financial hub, Mumbai, are struggling to cope with surging numbers of new residents.
Millions arrive in New Delhi and Mumbai every year - many of whom are migrants seeking better opportunities.
It's turning them into a microcosm of the country’s worsening overpopulation issue.
Hanikesh says taking the train in Mumbai is a safety risk.
‘’//….there’s a lot of crowd, you get hurt whenever your phone falls and you are not able to find your phone as well. So, sometimes it’s very difficult to travel from a long distance and when trains get late, there’s a lot of crowd in all of the trains.”
Tens of thousands of residents live in cramped slums in India, littered with dark alleys and unhygienic living conditions.
Parveen Begum is a resident of Mumbai's sprawling Dharavi slum - one of the largest in the world.
“This is our small house and five, six people live here. There is no regular supply of electricity, water and the sewage system is bad. The sewer overflows every time but no one cleans it, and no one collects the garbage. So, we face lots of problems.”
Local infrastructure is also under severe strain in New Delhi.
There is no sewer in this slum, and only public toilets for the 5,000 people that live there.
Unemployment is also rampant across India.
Thousands of candidates apply for a single post in most sectors.
India's joblessness peaked at 23.5% in 2020.
It’s now at around 7% - higher than the global average - according to data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy.
India is set to surpass China as the world's most populous country in 2023, with each counting more than 1.4 billion residents this year, according to a July United Nations report.
The UN anticipates that China's population will actually start shrinking from next year.
In 2021, the country's fertility rate of 1.16 was below the 2.1 OECD standard for a stable population - one the lowest in the world.
Software developer Tang Huajun says he and many of his friends are only planning to have one child due to the increasing cost of childcare.
"For many families, the grandparents are either too old or too far away, so they have to hire nannies to take care of the kid. This means that the cost would be really high even when the child is very little, so this is one of the main reasons people don't want to have children. Another reason is that many of us get married very late, and it's hard to get pregnant at this age. I can't be too sure, but I think getting married late will definitely have an impact on births.’’
China’s strict one-child policy was in place from 1980 to 2015 to keep population numbers in check.
It was replaced with a two-child limit to try and stave off risks to its economy from a rapidly aging population.
Then in May 2021, Beijing announced a three-child policy for married couples.
China has been trying to encourage couples to have more children with tax breaks and cash handouts,
as well as more generous maternity leave, medical insurance and housing subsidies.
But demographers say the measures are not enough - citing factors like high education costs, low wages, notoriously long working hours, and the state of the economy.