India has officially surpassed China to become the world's most populous nation with 142.86 crore people, shows a report by the United Nations.

According to United Nations Population Fund's (UNFPA) 'The State of World Population Report, 2023', India's population has reached 1,428.6 million (142.8 crore), while China's stands at 1,425.7 million (142.5 crore), which is a difference of 2.9 million.

The UN report clarifies that for statistical purposes, the data for China do not include Hong Kong and Macao, Special Administrative Regions (SAR) of China, and Taiwan.

The overall world population has also touched 8,045 million (804.5 crore), with more developed regions accounting for a population of 1,276 million (127.6 crore), while less developed ones at 6,769 million (676.9 crore) and least developed at 1,151 million (115.1 crore).

Notably, in November 2022, the United Nations had announced the human population had surpassed 8 billion people, and also that two-thirds of people were living in places where fertility rates had fallen below the so-called “replacement level” of 2.1 births per woman.

The latest report says Asia and the Pacific account for the largest chunk of the population at 4,176 million (417.6 crore), while Eastern Europe and Central Asia account for the least population at 248 million.

New data reveals population anxieties are widespread and governments are increasingly adopting policies aimed at raising, lowering or maintaining fertility rates. But efforts to influence fertility rates are very often ineffective and can erode women’s rights.

The landmark report, '8 Billion Lives, Infinite Possibilities: the case for rights and choices', calls for a radical rethink of how population numbers are framed -- urging politicians and media to abandon overblown narratives about population booms and busts. "Instead of asking how fast people are reproducing, leaders should ask whether individuals, especially women, are able to freely make their own reproductive choices – a question whose answer, too often, is no," says the report.

“Women’s bodies should not be held captive to population targets,” says UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem. “To build thriving and inclusive societies, regardless of population size, we must radically rethink how we talk about and plan for population change.”

A staggering 44 per cent of partnered women and girls in 68 reporting countries do not have the right to make informed decisions about their bodies when it comes to having sex, using contraception and seeking health care; and an estimated 257 million women worldwide have an unmet need for safe, reliable contraception.

Twenty-four per cent of partnered women and girls are unable to say no to sex and 11 per cent are unable to make decisions specifically about contraception, according to data from 68 reporting countries, the report adds.

"Family planning must not be used as a tool for achieving fertility targets; it is a tool for empowering individuals. Women should be able to choose if, when and how many children they would like to have, free from the coercion of pundits and officials," the report adds.

Additionally, two-thirds of people are living in low fertility contexts, while eight countries will account for half the projected growth in global population by 2050 -- the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania.

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