From the day that she became an independent sovereign State, India has been poised to become a momentous country. The incidents that have unfolded in the history of modern India have only played their part in latently being sub-landmarks of a greater destiny awaiting her. Starting with the 1857 Sepoy mutiny and building up to the auspicious night of 14th August 1947 when the clock struck 12 at midnight and India stepped out from the old to the new, when an age ended and when the soul of a nation long suppressed found utterance. An unforgiving nightmare had ended and a new light was born that pulled the nation towards the jewelled vision of a country that would soon hold the tagline of the largest democracy in the world in terms of size and number. One of the oldest civilizations in history had now become the new-born infant nation of a world that was half a century away from turning into its second millennium. No matter how overlooked the fact may be, this was a landmark event in the history of the world. It changed a lot of global perceptions. The exemplification of a long hard fought struggle for democracy and a successful prototype of the age old cliché of unity in diversity left a permanent imprint in the thinking and approaches of political analysts, world leaders, the international community at the time, and most importantly, the younger generations.
The sensationalisation of it on one side, the hard facts on the ground when India became a sovereign nation and even today are that India is a country with easily available indigenous raw materials, abundant labour, and rich cultural history and heritage. From then to now, we have proven that we can grow at faster growth rates than almost every country in the world; defend our sovereign borders successfully; become the only country to reach the orbit of Mars on her very first attempt; upgrade our primary sector and adopt efficacious methods of production; boost manufacturing and exporting efforts; give birth to an Information Technology (or IT) revolution which is providing the cheapest and largest IT talent pool ever seen since the birth of IT; and are ballasted to become the youngest nation in the world by 2020. The purpose of mentioning these achievements and putting them in a historical context is to be able to objectively establish that all these events are only validations and pertinent prerequisites to term India as a developing breakout nation, on the brink of breaking out.
However, in the last two decades, ever since the New Economic Policy (NEP), certain turbulent changes in the socio-economic dynamo of India coupled with loopholed laws exploited by the practice of graft by people in positions of power have caused a necessity in a change in the prioritization of policy-making. This is a necessity if India has to continue on the path of greatness and not put its long awaited glorified destiny in jeopardy. One such prioritization is a careful appraisal of India’s Demographic Dividend: the risk of not exploiting it enough and proactively creating plans for setting up institutions and programs for the development of the youth. (or Young India) and its engagement on a national policy formulation and implementation level.
India’s Demographic Dividend
India has a major advantage in terms of its demographic dividend. The demographic dividend occurs when the proportion of working age populace in the population is high. This naturally indicates that more people in the country have the capacity to contribute towards the growth of the economy by working in jobs and creating businesses. For a country to take full advantage of its demographic dividend it is essential that the government ensures that the workforce is skilled and pre- pared enough to contribute substantively to the growth of the country or this demographic dividend becomes a demographic disaster. Despite all our aforementioned glories, we have failed stylishly in this regard, in developing and preparing our Young India.
In order to understand the opportunity cost involved in not exploiting Young India, let’s lay across some facts to put things into perspective. We have 605 million people below the age of 25, while in the age group 10-19, poised for higher education, we have 225 million. This means that for the next 40 years we would have a youthful, dynamic and productive workforce when the rest of the world, including China and especially Japan, is aging. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has predict- ed that by 2020, India will have 116 million workers in the work-starting age bracket of 20 to 24 years, as compared to China’s 94 million. It is further estimated that the average age in India by the year 2020 will be 29 years as against 40 years in the USA, 46 years in Europe and 47 years in Japan. In fact, in 20 years the labour force in the industrialized world will decline by 4%, in China by 5%, while in India it will increase by 32%. And the IMF, in 2011, reported that India’s demographic dividend has the potential to add 2 percentage points per annum to India’s per capita GDP growth over the next two decades. These are more than just eyebrow-raising numbers, and every time that eye- brows are raised, it is fitting to make a fearless assessment of the ip side. Only 10 percent of the Indian workforce is in the organized sector; just 2.5 percent of the country’s working population has any vocational training, compared to the average of 60 to 70 percent in developed countries. Of the 11 million students graduating from colleges each year, only 20 percent get jobs relevant to their skill sets. And though women comprise 49 percent of India’s population, they form only 21 percent of the workforce. India’s women work force participation rate at 28.6% is less than that of Turkey (32%), Nigeria (49%), Bangladesh (60%) and China (70.4%). Needless to say that just a quick glance at those numbers assures us that the opportunity cost of turning such an upper hand to an abyss is too high to incur for a country that is, as we have already established, on the brink of breaking out.
This article has so far identified that Young India ought to play a pivotal role in the coming years in directly influencing India’s economic growth, and consequentially, indirectly affecting her progress in her endeavor of becoming a developed country. We have further identified that there exists a nefarious problem that has taken shape in the form of ignorance on part of the governments in the decade gone by in having to adequately take action upon the entrenched foreseeable circumstance of Young India playing this aforementioned pivotal role. The aforementioned statistics go on to show that there are two major factors that are bound to pose as encumbrances in the substantial exploitation of Young India. First, the level and quality of education. Leaving aside the exorbitantly high illiteracy rates, the proportion of school-aged students able to get through schooling to receive higher-education is extremely low. The government aims to increase the percentage of students making it through schooling to college to a meagre 30% by 2020, the year when India celebrates becoming the youngest nation in the world. Secondly, preparing Young India (especially the 225 million in the age group of 10-19) for the demographic boom that shall unfold in the next 40 years seems to be a next to impossible task given the incalculable gap between the skilled resource pool available to teach and the number of students waiting to learn. The problem does not just end with the 10-19 age bracket. The government has a bigger problem in hand which involves the proportion of working age population of India employed in the informal sector. Almost 300 million Indians currently belong to this sector and the number is growing at a frightening pace. The share of working age population employed in the informal sector is estimated to be 80-90%; contribution of informal sector to GDP has been estimated to be 40-50% over the last decade; between 2004- 05 and 2011-12, total employment in the country rose from 457.9 million to 472.4 million; over the same period employment in the formal sector rose from 28.8 million to 47.7 million whereas employment in the informal sector rose from 185.4 million to 209.6 million. That is, formal sector employment stood at 6.3 per cent and 10.1 per cent respectively of total employment in 2004-05 and 2011-12. This coupled with the lack of banking facilities and financial advice for these workers living hand-to-mouth on a daily basis leads to Young India growing up to no savings and zero investments to secure their future. This does nothing but act as a deferred burden upon the government to take care of Young India in the times to come and makes the problem in hand a befuddling quandary. Considering the proportion of Young India at risk of not receiving a basic education and the minuscule existent infrastructure in our country to educate them, it is a monumental task for the government alone to take immediate action which will show results. Furthermore, it is out of the capacity of the government to come up with schemes that fairly cover the entire population in question.
India is currently in the early stage of its demographic dividend. However, in 4 years’ time this will change. If India is the symphony that is being played, then Young India is the music conductor which is going to be deciding its course. And this conductor comes of age in 2020. If audiences have to be impressed then it is essential that we nurture, educate, and groom this conductor starting now. The audience is of course the world, and everyone’s eyes at the moment are glued on Young India and everyone is curious to see what it does next. It has been seen that the government is not equipped enough to take action upon the problem in isolation. In order to intervene and prepare Young India, the government, the private sector and the NGOs will have to take up the role of stakeholders and share the burden of educating the youth and creating enough employment opportunities in the formal sector for it. This is where it becomes essential that we define a platform for Young India. This is done keeping in mind three long-term objectives:
1. Mobilizing Young India [18-30]
- Channelize their synergies towards a common goal of self-sustenance
- Proactively work towards shaping policies to bene t their future prospects
- Generate a platform for Young India to voice their opinions and bring the problems faced by the society/community/geographical area they come from to the table
- Discuss and dissect pressing issues in society
- Make use of their higher education to contribute towards the development of the nation
- Act as a parallel force taking shape today to be structured enough for tomorrow
2. Connecting Stakeholders
- Bringing the government, private enterprises from all domains, NGOs and Young India under one roof
- Bridging the gap between Young India and the rest of the stakeholders in order to collaboratively work towards nurturing and developing Young India
3. Platform for Young India to influence policy-making
- Mobilization of all stakeholders leads to fructiferous discussion which in turn leads to a common opinion formed by finding agreement in disagreement.
- Creating recommendations which are given for submission to the Parliament
- Ensuring that recommendations cater to interests of all stakeholders
- Facilitating the ling of PILs.
This platform must be an agglomeration of ideas and a scintillating light that pierces through the lugubrious darkness of ignorance. The aim of policy driven towards the youth must be reworked to attempt at optimising all resources of India by ensuring large scale congregation of stakeholders. These stakeholders must be brought together for the purpose of identification and tackling of real problems in touch with grassroot complexities through functional collaborations and justifiable knowledge sharing between the government and the public and private enterprises. There must be efforts made at lateral work carried out by the government and the private players in solving not only the issues of Young India but also the issues that Young India identifies as important enough to take policy action upon. It aims at safeguarding the sacred principle of representation that drives every democracy. Young India acts as an aggregator in driving the new growth. The approach adopted in achieving this new growth is Young India in itself. This encourages stakeholders to bring together already existing knowledge and human resources; dissect and understand the nuances and exactions of this knowledge and human resources and then apply cumulative proficiency in fields of academics in order to attempt at optimizing growth in all sectors and thus achieving holistic sustainable development (or ‘new growth’). New growth driven by Young India, the conductor of the symphony that the entire world has its eyes on.
The BJP government which came into power in 2014 has taken ambitious steps in achieving a holistic sustainable development ideal. Some of these ambitious campaigns involve Skill India, Make in India, and Digital India. However, what must be noted here is that the most prominent yardstick of success of these schemes will be the amount of unskilled labour force they are able to covert to skilled labour and the number of employment opportunities they create relative to before they were put into effect. Young India through its 3-point agenda tries to achieve an ultimate goal of mobilizing the youth and knowledge resources of other stakeholders in order to cater to India’s needs and overcome socio-economic barriers which hamper the overall progress of the country.
About the Author
Ishaan Kapoor is an undergraduate law student at Government Law College, Mumbai. He has worked with the indirect tax teams of the legal arms of KPMG, Pune and BMR Advisors, Gurgaon on the GST Act taking effect in India from 1st July, 2017. He also did a stint with the Supreme Court of India working apprentice to Senior Advocate-on-Record, Ms. Vibha Datta Makhija. Besides his legal career, Ishan is a business developer and has worked on multiple projects in the field of education in the last five years. Currently, Ishan is setting-up his own ventures out of Mumbai and New Delhi in the space of Enterprise SaaS, Mental Healthcare and e-counseling and is simultaneously working for Transitions Lab Undergraduate Preparatory School, a subsidiary of TransWeb Global in Business Development & Client Acquisition efforts in India. Ishan possesses an undying love for spy thriller novels, Indian and world politics, classic rock music, and Liverpool F.C.