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India on track to become world’s most populous country, UN says

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The death toll from a fire at a Beijing hospital has risen to 29, including 26 patients, authorities have said.

A nurse, a medical assistant and a family member also died, said Li Zongrong, deputy head of the Fengtai district.

The fire at the private Changfeng Hospital that broke out on Tuesday afternoon forced dozens of people to evacuate, and prompted some of those who were trapped to escape from windows using bedsheets tied together.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, but officials say they believe it originated from welding sparks from work being carried out in the hospital’s inpatient wing.

Authorities have detained 12 people, including the hospital’s head and her deputy, along with the head of the construction crew.

A total of 39 people are being treated for injuries, three of whom are in a critical condition, officials said.

Rescue crews and medical staff from around the city were mobilised, with squads plucking some of the 142 people who were evacuated from air conditioning units on the building’s exterior.

In contrast, India has a much younger population, a higher fertility rate, and has seen a decrease in infant mortality over the last three decades.

Still, the country’s fertility rate has been steadily falling, from more than five births per woman in 1960 to just over two in 2020, according to World Bank data.

India’s continued growth is likely to have social and economic consequences. India has the largest number of young people at 254 million aged between 15 and 24, according to the UN.

Experts hope this means an expanding labour force that can help fuel growth in the country for decades to come.

But they warn it could just as swiftly become a demographic liability if the growing number of young people in India are not adequately employed.

Tech giant Apple, among other companies, hopes to turn India into a potential manufacturing hub as it moves some production out of China, where wages are rising as the working age population shrinks.

United Nations launches ceasefire to allow countries to deal with coronavirus within
The Indian survey findings suggest that population anxieties have seeped into large portions of the general public

The report also surveyed 1,007 Indians, 63% of whom said economic issues were their top concern when thinking about population change, followed by worries about the environment, health and human rights.

Andrea Wojnar, the United Nations Population Fund’s representative for India, said of the report: “The Indian survey findings suggest that population anxieties have seeped into large portions of the general public. Yet, population numbers should not trigger anxiety or create alarm.”

She added that they should be seen as a symbol of progress and development “if individual rights and choices are being upheld”.

The hope is that India’s soaring number of working age people will give it a “demographic dividend”, or the potential for economic growth when a country’s young, working age population is larger than its share of older people who are beyond their working years.

That is what helped China become an economic and global heavyweight, even as its number of working age adults is now falling.

On Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said of the report: “A country’s demographic dividend depends not only on quantity, but also on quality.

“The population is important, so is talent… China’s demographic dividend has not disappeared, the talent dividend is taking place and development momentum remains strong.”

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