Whenever we study about population growth of a country, the history as well as the present development of the country matters a lot. The population of a country can be divided into two categories ‘working’ and ‘dependent’. The population in the age group between 15 to 65 are considered to be in the working category. They are in the active age group and are generally able not only to earn their own livelihood but support some dependents as well. Children below 15 years of age and elders above 65 years of age are considered to be in the dependent category. The ratio of the dependent persons to working persons is called “dependency ratio.” High dependency ratio means dependents are more than working persons and vice versa.
In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, not only in India but throughout the world advances in medical sciences and better nutrition and living conditions led to an expansion of population in the previous century. Children stopped dying of diseases and malnutrition. The low mortality rate resulted in a rapid increase of population, more so in the age group below 15. These large numbers of children started entering the working population age group in the nineties.
Any country with such a large youthful population can draw a pride on their young human resource. In India sixty five per cent of our population is under the age of 35. The ILO (International Labour Organisation) says in 2030 we will have 160 million people on the job (with the) starting age group of 19 to 23, whereas China will have only 92 million. So, we are going to be, in a sense, in a position to be the dynamic, productive, youthful nation.
But all of this will make sense, only if we can equip these young people to be able to take advantage of the opportunities the 21st century offers. With all type of technological, space, industrial, service sector as well as agricultural revolution in India all our human resource could have given the country a great dividend. This means that the younger people not only start earning for themselves but reduce the burden of the older citizen and increase the savings of the family/country. The main requirement for reaping the demographic dividend, therefore, is to engage the increasing numbers of working age persons productively.
There are many benefits of the demographic dividend. One, the large numbers of working persons produce more than what they consume. They add to the GDP of the country. Two, entry of large number of youth into the work force increases the supply of labour. This leads to reduced wages and to lower cost of production for our businesses. Three, the working persons are able to save larger share of their incomes. This leads to an increase in investment. Fourth, the working persons are able to invest more in education of their children as well as many new areas of investment. This leads to the increase in the availability of skilled workers or in the “human capital.”
But the present scenario in India is that the level of education is at such a low level that in majority cases we can only call it as literacy rather than education. More so when we find that our educational institutions are only bothered to provide degree instead of linking education with skill, knowledge or values.
Thus benefits of demographic dividend are lost and the “dividend” becomes a “disaster” as we see our youth of working age are unemployed. Other working persons of the family have to take care of them. Further, they may engage in crime and other anti-social activities leading to further loss of income of the country.
Clearly, on the one hand, large numbers of youths are entering the workforce, on the other hand, large numbers of jobs are being lost. India is staring at a “demographic disaster” as a major section of the country’s youth is not yet equipped to take advantage of the job opportunities that the current century has to offer.
Thus it is high time to consider “right kind of education”, including skill development and vocational training to youngsters, to address the issue.