“Youth are not useless but they are used less. They are not careless but are cared less”. – Swami Chinmayananda.
Youth is a power for most of the countries. Predominance of youth power is a boon for any country if it is harnessed rightfully. Growing economies are utilizing the youth power as an economic power in the globalized world. Economic forces in India are also banking upon their youth power as well. Their substantial contribution in knowledge economy is one of India’s greatest assets in the new millennium. Both the size of this youth power and its quality are important. When we talk about the size of youth power our attention goes to the youth population and when we consider the dimension of quality of this power, we throw light on skills and capacities and their subsequent achievement in various discipline. If we understood age structure of the Indian population, one can be easily convinced that India is a “Youth country” since more than 70% of the population is below 35 years of age. In contrast to the developed countries where average citizen is aged more than 40–45, the average Indian is expected to be only 29 years old in the year 2020.
Demographic dividend, as defined by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) means, “the economic growth potential that can result from shifts in a population’s age structure, mainly when the share of the working-age population (15 to 64) is larger than the non-working-age share of the population (14 and younger, and 65 and older)”.In other words, it is “a boost in economic productivity that occurs when there are growing numbers of people in the workforce relative to the number of dependents.”
In order for economic growth to occur the younger population must have access to quality education, adequate nutrition and health including access to sexual and reproductive health. Combined with effective public policies this time period of the demographic dividend can help facilitate more rapid economic growth and puts less strain on families.
Today’s youth are tomorrow’s citizens. But something serious is happening to our youth who are emerging from the youth hood to the stage of citizenship. Our youth are confused and restless. They are chaotic and are in constant rebellion— with their teachers, parents, colleagues, society and even with themselves!
The population, which has the potential to generate demographic dividend, can also become disaster if not utilized properly. Unfortunately, this is the fear that has started dominating discussion in India recently. India seems to be at a crossroad, where demographic dividend has the potential to become demographic disaster. A surging population which has the potential to make India into an economic superpower is now becoming a cause of concern, especially after phased high economic growth has achieved very little on employment front. Why is it that the threat of demographic disaster has started looming large over India economy?
Fall in employment elasticity of growth
The first and the most worrying factor for the economy has been the fall in employment elasticity of growth. This is a critical factor in identifying how many jobs are getting created with each percentage increase in the growth in the Indian economy. Indian economy is experiencing an almost jobless growth in the country. Additional employment generation is not happening at the desired pace.
Nature and quality of employment
Another cause of worry is the nature of employment opportunity available in the country. Majority of the people in the country remain self-employed and the second highest contribution in employment comes in form of causal workers. Basically quality of employment generation is not very good. Another interesting finding is form of employability of the people joining the rank of employable resources. Majority of Indian youth are not employable because of the quality of education imparted in schools and colleges.
Looking at these aspects there is a danger of demographic dividend getting converted into disaster. The population in the country continues to surge and work force is increasing but employment opportunity is not increasing proportionately. Most of the jobs are not quality jobs and only subsistence level jobs.
We should have a one-point agenda: educate the new generation and improve school curriculum. We are so focused on IIMs and IITs that we have no time for the basics—school education. We need to put money into this and health. We still need to focus on the weaker states.
One we should change the education system to ensure that it gets helps in creating skills which add to the employment potential. There is a need to promote manufacturing at a large scale and also identify areas which have high employment generation potential.
Promoting MSME sector to generate meaningful employment will be a great idea.
There is a need to promote manufacturing to harness low cost benefit in the areas, which India has natural advantage. If it can generate substantial employment, so can manufacturing. Manufacturing can be the real contributor in employment growth in the years to come.
Also the informal sector which generates significant level employment needs to have policy benefits which will provide critical supports which are available to the workers in the organised sector such as health care and bare minimum social security.