7 Most Populated Countries in the World

By: Allison Troutner  | 
Religious pilgrims bathe in the Ganges River
Religious pilgrims bathe in the Ganges River, India, during the Kumbh Mela Hindu Festival in 2013. The festival occurs every 12 years. Alison Wright/Getty Images

In April 2023, the United Nations (U.N.) announced that India was set to take over from China as the most populated country in the world. The U.N. projected this to happen midyear 2023, but experts aren't sure exactly when it will happen. Indeed, some think it already has. Together, the two countries make up over 35 percent of the world's entire population.

Population trends are primarily shaped by a country's fertility rates (average number of births per woman over her lifetime) and mortality (total deaths each year). However, other factors like international migration determine a country's population change over time. Organizations like the UN Population Division rely on various data sources like censuses, surveys, and birth and death records to calculate population estimates. While sophisticated mathematical equations are involved in the calculation, populations are estimated and not exact.


The U.N. and other organizations don't track the population to award the winning country a shiny gold medal. Monitoring population trends and drivers and anticipating changes in demographics is critical for the sustainable development of nations, according to the UN's World Population Prospect Report in 2022.

If the number of people exceeds resources like schools, food or health care, it can destabilize the country, potentially leading to significant challenges like poverty and disease. Keeping tabs on quickly growing populations helps governments proactively plan for national development and ensure those countries can provide everyone with quality education and economic opportunity. On the other hand, if a country's population continues to shrink, it can mean fewer working people to support a larger number of retirees, and less people available for economic activity, whether as employees or entrepreneurs.

Here are the seven most populous countries in the world. Estimated and projected population data was sourced from The United Nations Population Fund.


1. India – 1.428 Billion

In 2023, India's population is expected to surpass China's, which has held the title of the most populous country since 1950, when the U.N. started collecting population data, according to The Associated Press. However, the Indian government hasn't conducted an official census since 2011 and hasn't commented on the new statistic, which makes an accurate number challenging to estimate, The AP says. (India's 2021 census was derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.)

India is internationally renowned for its vibrantly spiced cuisines, historical and architectural wonders like the Taj Mahal and diverse and rich cultures and religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. Many large international companies are looking to move into the lively and growing economy, but there are challenges. Though India's population is growing, the government struggles with unemployment. There are not enough quality jobs available amid a growing workforce. Unemployment rates are stagnant at around 7-8 percent, and only around 49 percent of working-age Indians have jobs, according to the World Bank.


2. China — 1.425 Billion

passengers at Najing Rainway Station
Passengers board and disembark from trains at Nanjing Railway Station in Nanjing, China, May 3, 2023. FOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images

As we said earlier, China has long been the country with the most people, until this year. However, its population declined in 2022 for the first time in decades. This was as a result of the country's efforts to reduce rapid population growth through policies like the one-child policy, which limited couples to having a single child from 1980 to 2016. China officially relaxed this policy in 2016 (concerned about reversing demographic trends) and in 2021, increased the limit to up to three children. It's too early to determine if the policy reversal came too late, as now its citizens have grown accustomed to small families. Whether this decline becomes a crisis depends on how the country responds.

China is a fascinating country, known for its beautiful landscapes, intricate temples and traditional arts like calligraphy and paper cutting. Its economy is one of the largest in the world, driven by a mix of manufacturing, services and agriculture. However, China also faces significant challenges, including environmental pollution, income inequality and political censorship.


3. United States — 340 Million

The U.S. has the largest economy in the world, with a gross domestic product of more than $23 trillion. The United States is known for its diverse and vibrant culture, including music, art, literature and entertainment — most notably, Hollywood, the world's largest entertainment industry — making the country the global leader of pop culture.

The third most populated country attributes much of its growing population and breadth of diversity to its history of international immigration. More than 1 million people immigrate to the U.S. every year, according PEW Research Center, and the country has the largest number of total immigrants of any country in the world. In 2018, immigrants accounted for 13.7 percent of the U.S. population. Having lots of immigrants also keeps the country's population from aging, as has happened in much of Europe. About 50 percent of the population is under the age of 40./\r\n/


4. Indonesia — 277.5 Million

labor day demonstration, indonesia
Workers and activists ride motorcycles during a demonstration to commemorate International Labor Day in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia on May 1, 2023. Suryanto Pramudji/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Indonesia is home to over 277 million people, making it the fourth most populous country in the world. It's the largest archipelago on Earth, made up of over 17,000 islands in Southeast Asia, though more than half of the total population lives on the island of Java. The economy of Indonesia is the largest in Southeast Asia and is driven by sectors such as tourism, manufacturing and agriculture. Indonesia has a rich and varied culture, with more than 300 ethnic groups and hundreds of local languages spoken around the country.

In contrast to the U.S., China and India, the country has a comparatively young population, with a median age of 29 years, and 70 percent of the population is of working age (15-64 years old). Indonesia is actually in a “sweet spot” demographically because of the number of people in the prime working age group, according to an article by the East Asia Forum. However, their economic success relies on how well they provide productive employment for working-aged people.


5. Pakistan — 240.5 Million

Like Indonesia, Pakistan is a young country, with 60 percent of the country's population under 30 years old. The country also has one of the highest birth rates in the world. A young population presents both benefits and challenges to a country's success. If Pakistan can harness the vitality of its youth, it will drive innovation and productivity. However, despite Pakistan's free education, more than 9 million children are not enrolled in primary school and 29 percent are illiterate, according to a report from the United Nations Development Program. If Pakistan can't meet the needs of its "youth bulge," it could lead to consequences like social unrest, the report says.

A fusion of South Asian, Middle Eastern, and Central Asian cultural influences shapes the culture of Pakistan. The country has a diverse population with more than 60 languages spoken and a flavorful, heavily spiced cuisine, including curries, chapati and naan (bread), and lassi (a popular yogurt beverage).


6. Nigeria — 223.8 Million

Voters line up in Lagos, Nigeria
Voters line up to vote during the 2023 Presidential and National Assembly Elections in Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria, Feb. 25, 2023. Adekunle Ajayi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

With more than 223 million people, Nigeria is the most populated country in Africa, as well as the one with the largest economy. Nigeria is also incredibly diverse, both ethnically and linguistically, with more than 250 ethnic groups and over 500 languages spoken nationwide.

The population is young, with over 70 percent under the age of 30, and that number is projected to grow rapidly in the coming decades. Like other primarily young countries, this could be an advantage or a burden depending on how the country leverages its health and educational resources, which the government is struggling to do, according to reports. About 40 percent of Nigerians live below the poverty line and are not enrolled in school.


7. Brazil — 216.4 Million

Brazil has the ninth-largest economy in the world, driven by a mix of agriculture, manufacturing and services industries. It also has the largest economy in Latin America. However, Brazil faces significant challenges, such as high levels of inequality, corruption and crime. The population growth rate has been decreasing since the 1950s, a shift credited to more women entering the workforce and waiting longer to have children. Unlike Nigeria, Pakistan and Indonesia, Brazil is projected to have a predominantly older population by 2039, which could have implications for the country's economy, social welfare systems and health care system. Its current birth rate is 1.75 births per female, below the "replacement rate" of 2.0.

Brazil is the largest country in South America, with a population of over 216 million people. The population is a mix of European, African and Indigenous peoples and a variety of languages spoken, with Portuguese being the official language. The country is known for its music and dance, including samba and bossa nova, and its vibrant, world-famous Carnaval celebration.