25th February – Demographic Dividend

India’s population is among the youngest in an ageing world. By 2022, the median age in India will be 28 years; in comparison, it will be 37 in China and the United States, 45 in western Europe, and 49 in Japan. A demographic dividend, said to have commenced around 2004-05, is available for close to five decades.

Key caveats –

  • India’s population heterogeneity ensures that this window of demographic dividend becomes available at different times in different States. While Kerala’s population is already ageing, in Bihar the working age cohort is predicted to continue increasing till 2051. By 2031, the overall size of our vast working age population would have declined in 11 of the 22 major States.
  • Secondly, harnessing the demographic dividend will depend upon the employability of the working age population, their health, education, vocational training and skills, besides appropriate land and labour policies, as well as good governance. India will gain from its demographic opportunity only if policies and programmes are aligned to this demographic shift. Demography is not destiny.

What is required?

  • UNICEF 2019 reports that at least 47% of Indian youth are not on track to have the education and skills necessary for employment in 2030.
  • While over 95% of India’s children attend primary school, the National Family Health Surveys (completed up to 2015-16) confirm that poor infrastructure in government schools, malnutrition, and scarcity of trained teachers have ensured poor learning outcomes.

What should be done?

  • A coordinated incentive structure prompting States to adopt a broadly uniform public school system focusing on equity and quality will yield a knowledge society faster than privatising school education can accomplish.
  • Most districts now have excellent broadband connectivity. Let geography not trump demography. Modernise school curricula, systematically invest in teacher training so that they grow in their jobs to assume leadership roles, while moving beyond the tyranny of the syllabus. Deploy new technology to accelerate the pace of building human capital by putting in place virtual classrooms together with massive open online courses (MOOCS) to help prepare this huge work force for next-generation jobs. Investing in open digital universities would further help yield a higher educated workforce.
  • Flexible entry and exit policies for women into virtual classrooms, and into modules for open digital training, and vocational education would help them access contemporary vocations. Equal pay for women will make it worth their while to stay longer in the workforce.
  • The National Sample Survey Office data on health (75th round, 2018), shows that a deep-rooted downturn in the rural economy is making quality health-care unaffordable. We need to assign 70% of health sector budgets to integrate and strengthen primary and integrated public health-care services and systems up to district hospital levels, include out-patient department and diagnostic services in every health insurance model adopted, and implement in ‘mission mode’ the Report of the High Level Group, 2019, submitted to the XV Finance Commission.

Conclusion –

The policies that we adopt, and their effective implementation will ensure that the our demographic dividend, a time-limited opportunity, becomes a boon for India.

SourceThe Hindu

QUESTIONWith a demographic window currently open for India, it is incumbent upon us to convert this demography into a dividend for us. Suggest a way forward.

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