India’s young population — is it demographic dividends or demographic liabilities?
India is home to the largest young population on the globe.
More than 62% of the population is in the working age group (15–59 years), and more than 54% of the total population is below 25 years of age.
So, the optimist, while talking about India’s competitive advantage on a global scale, will always refer to it as a great advantage.
I am not such an optimist.
I have seen the two India closely- India and Bharat.
There is a young aspirational, and confident India ready to explore and conquer the world.
More and more Indian are making great strides in the global arena.
There is a new breed of young entrepreneurs who are confident and poised to take up challenges and chase new heights.
Then, there is a huge population of rural and urban poor youths who are clueless about their future.
An agrarian society like India, where a large number of people are sub-optimally engaged as there are no other avenues of gainful employment, needs to move its extra workforce to the tertiary and services sectors to create economic prosperity for those people.
While India’s services sector is growing still, it is low compared to developed nations; its share in the overall GDP is much lower.
Unlike China, India does not have large, low-skill, labor-intensive manufacturing where a large workforce can be employed.
Thanks to the Government’s thrust on Infrastructure projects and schemes like MGNREGA, many organized sector laborers are engaged.
However, these sectors are sometimes volatile, as we have seen during COVID, and a little bit of blip in the sector makes them an immediate casualty.
But I am not even talking about low-skilled, manual, organized sector labor. Of course, this is a problem, but yet another similar big problem exists.
The problem of educated, unemployed youths who do not have industry-ready skills to be gainfully employed.
These youth do not want to join agriculture, do not have the necessary skills and drive to entrepreneurship, and are also not employable.
They are the product of India’s colonial education system.
Somehow, despite many efforts, the skilling of youths for gainful employment is yet to be cracked completely by both the private sector and the government.
Secondly, the whole paradigm of skills is changing because of rapid technological changes and changes in business models.
Hyper automation and AI will make low-skilled, repetitive, mundane jobs redundant.
We can not guess what kind of jobs will be created in the future.
Growing up, we never imagined that there would be careers like Youtuber, Gamers, content writers, bloggers, food delivery guys, etc.
The problem is that everybody can not be a data scientist or a programmer.
We need to learn how the country can prepare its workforce in an era of hyper-automation and AI.
This is an urgent issue, and all stakeholders must put their acts together to chart a path, or else the much-talked-about demographic dividends will be a big liability.
And our big aspiration of being the world’s future workforce in an ever-aging world will be a distant dream.
The world population has already become 8 Billion, and India added the highest population of 177 Million in the growing world population from 7 to 8 Billion. India is already poised to overtake china in 2023.
India occupies only 2.4% of the world’s land area, already housing almost 17.5% of the world’s population.
So, the problem is not only about employment; it’s about supporting the entire population on all fronts.
A billion people come with a billion problems unless those billion problems are harnessed to create a billion opportunities.