Demographic Dividend or Demographic Disaster?


As per the Census 2011, India’s working age population (15-64 years) is 63.4% of the total population. It is projected that India will be the youngest nation in the world by 2020. India will have an enormous “youth bulge” in the form of “demographic dividend” which provides a golden opportunity for the Indian economy to harness this for increasing growth and productivity of the economy. The growth rate of the labour force will continue to be higher than that of the population until 2021. It was found that every fast-growing economy has accelerated as it underwent a “demographic transition”. Not only this, there are two kinds of demographic trends happening in India. One is that peninsular states have stabilized their populations and northern states are having very young population.

While this demographic dividend provides great opportunities, it also poses various challenges. If these challenges were not tackled at the appropriate time, demographic dividend will turn into “demographic disaster”.

Challenges in harnessing demographic dividend-

  • Education- The young people need to be provided with a holistic education where they get the quality education as well life skills. However, the situation on the ground is alarming. As per the ASER report, there is a sharp decline in the quality of education. Children are not able to read and do simple mathematics. The rote learning is prevalent. India spends less than 3% of its GDP on Education. As per one government report, only 79% teachers are professionally qualified to teach in schools.
  • Skill Development- Employability is one of the biggest issues in our country. Students do not have adequate skills to work. As per the Labour Bureau Report 2014, the current size of India’s formally skilled workforce is only 2%. In South Korea, 96% and in Japan, 80% workforce is skilled. There is a lack of infrastructure for skill development. Workforce needs skills to get decent employment.
  • Health- It is one of the most important requirements because a healthy person can only deliver results at workplace. But the irony of the situation is that India spends less than 2% of GDP on Health. Our primary health infrastructure is crumbling and a large section of rural India still defecates in the open. Children are malnourished and stunted.
  • Employment opportunities- India has notoriously gone through the process of “jobless growth”. Indian economy is not able to generate adequate employment for the people of the country. It is dominated by informal sectors. People are mostly self-employed. Indian economy is not creating jobs at a mass level for unskilled and semi-skilled people.
  • Discrimination against some sections of the society- Indian society still discriminates various sections of society. It is not only hampering the development process but also creates various hurdles in economic development. The Labour Force Participation Rate of Women(LFPR) of women is very low in both urban and rural areas. Various weaker sections of the society do not get enough opportunities for education and skill development. Child labour is prevalent in the country, which is not only hampering the future generations but also the present adult population.

What needs to be done?


India must create a sustainable ecosystem for education and skill development. Recently launched National Policy of Education is a step in the right direction. However, various anomalies related to the quality of education, teacher training etc. need to be resolved at war footing. Skill India Mission launched by the government to create a job ready and skilled workforce needs to streamline in the education curriculum. It should be made compulsory for every student to learn some skills during school time.

We need to realize the fact that only healthy young population of the country can prove to be a good worker. India has a ‘serious hunger problem’ as per the Global Hunger Index. Swachh Bharat Mission, Mission Indradhaush, Janani Suraksha Yojana, Maternity Benefit Bill 2017, National Health Policy 2017 have good intentions and provisions but they need hundred percent implementation to reap the benefits of the demographic dividend.

Indian Economy needs to focus on manufacturing sectors as well as those sectors which are labor intensive like textile, leather, tourism, agriculture and allied activities to create a large number of jobs. In this context, Make in India and various labour reforms should be given priority.

There is also need to change the mindset of the people to change their attitude towards other sections of the society. There is need to increase the labour force participation of women.

Demographic deadlines are looming towards the country and the economy. India must take adequate steps to reap the benefits of demographic dividend otherwise it will turn out into a demographic disaster.

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