Harness Youth Power
The future of a nation lies in its population. It is not just the quality, but the number of people also matter a lot in the prospects of a nation. There was a time when the western experts taught the world that a larger population is not good for a country. They believed that that the lesser the population, higher will be the advantage. But now the richer parts of the world are faced with the prospects of declining populations and the consequent difficulties associated with the situation.
It is now being realized that countries having larger populations would be able to benefit from ‘population dividend.’ As a result India is expected reap benefits due to her higher population, compared to many other countries of the world.
Steady population growth keeps a good proportion of working age population in the country. Maintaining a sufficient working age population is necessary to take up and continue the productive activities that are essential for the proper functioning of the economy. Moreover it is the working age population that supports the younger and older populations, defined as the ‘dependent population’.
Lesser marriages, increased divorce rates, breaking up of families and declining fertility rates are leading to birth of lesser children in many richer countries. Hence their working age population is declining, while the dependent population increases.
It is estimated that “by 2050, the share of dependent population is projected to increase in all OECD countries, while declining only in the non-member economies of India and South Africa. The share of the dependent population is projected to be above 45% in Japan, Korea, Spain and Italy by 2050.” (OECD Fact book 2013)
The younger sections of the population are critical for the future of the country. Each country should have a good share of the youth population to take the nation forward. Unfortunately the youth population has been declining in the richer parts of the world during the past few decades.
The Fact book notes: “The youth population accounted for around 18% of the OECD total (on average) in 2010 with a steady decline since the 1970s. This fall is projected to continue as a result of lower fertility rates. By 2050 Japan and Korea are projected to have youth populations of 9% of the total, while only the United States (19%), Iceland (18%) and Estonia (18%) have projected youth populations close to the current OECD total.”
India is traditionally known for her higher population, due to the family orientation. India is fortunate to have a higher proportion of the youth population at present, which is expected to increase over the years. The Office of Registrar General and Census Commissioner, 2006, Government of India noted: “The youth population in the age-group 15-34 years is expected to increase from 353 million in 2001 to 430 million in 2011 and then continue to increase to 464 million in 2021.”
The State of the Urban Youth report mentions that the youth population between the ages of 15-32 years comprises 35 per cent of the urban population and 32 per cent of the rural population in the country. It is estimated that by 2020 India would have 64 per cent of the population belonging to the category of the youth. The youth report published in 2013 notes: “Every third person you meet in an Indian city today is a youth. In about seven years the median age in India will be 29 years, very likely a city-dweller, making it the youngest country in the world. ”
This demographic advantage has the potential to offer India and our economy unlimited opportunities for growth. The nation could reap larger benefits by making use of the higher proportion of the youth population. The report notes: “With the West, Japan and even China aging, this demographic potential offers India and its growing economy an unprecedented edge that economists believe could add a significant 2 per cent to the GDP growth rate.”
The report mentions the impact of the youth population on the higher growth of India. “Over the last two Census decades, when today's 'twenties were growing up, India has firmly inserted itself into the world economy. This world they inhabit will have, say global economists, seen a geopolitical shift with Asia as the fulcrum of economic growth.” Quoting government sources the report mentions: “Policy makers appear to be viewing the demographic dividend as the spring board that is needed to thrust India into a high growth era.”
Hence it is high time for the nation to take advantage of the youth power and plan for the future. It is unfortunate that the government is yet to define the category of youth clearly. The report notes: “As a category Indian youth is ill defined. There is no agreement on how and why a particular age group may be defined as youth. ”
During January 2014, the new National Youth Policy was announced by the Government of India, replacing the earlier Policy of 2003. But it did not propose any specific proposal or scheme with financial implications. There does not seem be a proper understanding at the higher policy making levels about the power of the youth and their potential to contribute to the nation.
The report notes that around three-fourths of the young urban men and women are educated up to middle and secondary levels of schooling, though there are variations across states. We have to make plans to utilise their potential. In the rural areas, significant sections of the younger population have exposure in agriculture and rural activities. Necessary training has to be imparted to all of them to equip them in their fields.
The educational system has no clear programmes and policies to utilise the youth power from their early stages of life. The Indian children and youth have a very high potential, due to the inherent advantages that they have as Indian citizens. The family system, social capital and the cultural traditions are among the biggest sources of benefits to the Indians.
In this connection it is important to understand that a sizable share of the youth population in the country is in a highly disadvantageous situation. To quote the report: “A telling sign: one-fifth of the Indian urban population lives on less than a dollar a day. Additionally, the report finds that while income levels in cities may appear to be higher, the cost of living is also constantly increasing, resulting in shrinking savings, inadequate access to health care and lack of quality education. Maternal mortality remains the ‘top cause of death among young women.’ Further, more than half of young urban women are anaemic, pointing to inadequate food and nutrition.”
Besides, there are disparities with regard to education and other entitlements. Such disparities lead to uneven access to opportunities in different regions across the country. “While India is undergoing a demographic transition, regional disparities in education mean the benefits will not be evenly spread across the country.”
The report finds that a person in an urban area has a 93 per cent greater chance of acquiring training than someone in a rural area. Hence the youth from those backgrounds that lack the facilities should be provided with them at the earliest.
While countries in the world are finding it difficult without younger populations, we are fortunate to have a good proportion of them. But the numbers will become a burden, if the youth are not used properly. Hence it is necessary to devise plans to prepare the youth from the younger days by providing all opportunities for their growth.
With India’s diversity, resources and heritage, the youth of our nation have enormous opportunities to perform at different levels in diverse fields. The nation will surely be able to touch newer heights at the global level when we harness the power of youth to the full extent.
1. OECD Fact book 2013, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris.
2. State of the Urban Youth, India 2012: Employment, Livelihoods, Skills, IRIS Knowledge Foundation, Mumbai, 2013 (commissioned by the UN-HABITAT’s Global Urban Youth Research Network)
( Yuva Bharati, Vivekananda Kendra, Chennai, Mar 2014)