India has the world’s largest youth population with 356 million youngsters of the age group of 10-24 year, despite having a little smaller population than China, according to a latest United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) State of the World’s Population report. China is second with 269 million young people, followed by Indonesia (67 million), the US (65 million) and Pakistan (59 million), Nigeria (57 million), Brazil (51 million), and Bangladesh with 48 million, the report states.
Every third person in an Indian city today is a youth. By 2020, the median individual in India will be 29 years, very likely a city-dweller, making it the youngest country in the world. India is set to experience a dynamic transformation as what was termed to be the population explosion is now a demographic dividend. The size of the dividend depends largely on how those countries invest in young people to realise their full potential. A demographic dividend of this magnitude has the potential to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and raise living standards and catapult economies forward. The potential economic gains would be realised through a “demographic dividend”, which can occur when a county’s working age population is larger than the population that is dependent.
By 2020, India is set to become the world’s youngest country with 64 per cent of its population in the working age group. 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. Urban spaces have not necessarily aided the quality of life enjoyed by Indian youth. 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 the inadequate food and nutrition. The problem is not urbanisation per se but the inequalities that it seems to accentuate. While India is undergoing a demographic transi-tion, regional disparities in education mean the benefits will not be evenly spread across the country. The report says the southern and western States will be the first to experience a growth dividend as they accounted for 63 per cent of all formally trained people. The largest share of youth with formal skills was found in Kerala, followed by Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. Among those undergoing training, Maharashtra had the highest share and Bihar the lowest. The unequal access to opportunity and lack of emphasis on education remains a persistent problem. A person in an urban area has a 93 per cent greater chance of acquiring training than someone in a rural area.
It said that developing countries with large youth populations could see their economies soar, provided they invest heavily in young people’s education and health and protect their rights. Within this generation are 600 million adolescent girls with specific needs, challenges and aspirations for the future.
As the world is home to 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 year, 9 in 10 of the world’s young population live in less developed countries. Young people are the innovators, creators, builders and leaders of the future. But they can transform the future only if they have skills, health, decision-making, and real choices in life. Never before have there been so many young people. Never again is there likely to be such potential for economic and social progress. How we meet the needs and aspirations of young people will define our common future. In order to maximise the dividend, countries must ensure their young working-age populations are equipped to seize opportunities for jobs and other income-earning possibilities. With the right policies and investments in human capital, we can empower young people to drive economic and social development and boost per-capita incomes.
Search for jobs and a decent livelihood is among the biggest motivator of migration, and the search for security and freedom from violence and discrimination is a major driver of refugee flows. China, India and South Korea were the countries of origin for the most foreign university students, while the United States was the destination for the largest number, followed by the United Kingdom and Australia. Because of lagging social services, these countries face greater obstacles to leveraging the advantages that can result from engaging a youthful, productive workforce. Critical youth investments needed to reap a demo-graphic dividend are those that protect rights, including reproductive rights, improve health, including sexual and reproductive health, and provide skills and knowledge to build young people’s capabilities and agency.
Good or bad times: Youth more vulnerable to unemployment
Globally youth are three times more likely than adults to be unemployed. Young women typically experience higher rates of unemployment than men.
Young people around the world were hit hardest during the global financial crisis due to their precariousness in the labour market
9.7 per cent of young men and 18.7 per cent of young women in India were unemployed in 2009/10. In comparison, the unemployment rate for Indians aged 30 – 34 reached only 1.2 and 3.4 per cent for men and women, respectively.
Job quality: an even greater challenge
Most young people in developing countries such as India cannot afford to remain unemployed for long but, at the same time, struggle to find decent jobs in the formal economy. Consequently, most youth are underemployed and eking out a living in the informal sector.
Youth know what they want
It seems as if today we are living in two Indias – one that belongs to the older generation and in some ways is seen as regressive; and the other belongs to the young and is its exact opposite.
Needless to say, the second India is a force that is gaining momentum and it won’t be too long before it becomes unstoppable. Like every generation before their own, these young women and men are looking for nothing more than recognition.
They are in that age where they would like to be kno-wn, be seen and be heard; they’d like to be at the centre of attention and be the stars of their lives. Now, none of this is unusual for people of that age. Our parents, when they were the age, wanted the same thing. What sets this generation apart is that unlike the previous generation they have a far, far larger platform. They have Facebook and Twitter and blogs and television shows that help them get that recognition and fame.
Contrary to the popular perception, the young India knows exactly what they want out of life. Everyone has that burning desire to prove something to themselves and their family. They want to better their circumstances and they want to rise up the social ladder.
This generation, having a lot more direction than the previous one because, unlike them the young today do not lack clarity. They do not want to blindly emulate something just because their parents say so. This generation doesn’t believe in playing safe. They dare to think different and they operate with a can-do attitude and confidence that their parents’ generation lacked. What sets them apart and what makes us hopeful of India’s future is that its youth hasn’t inherited the fear and insecurity of its previous generation.
They are charting new territories not being afraid of the storm, choosing rather to ride into it and creating their own path. The other thing that defines this generation is their voice. Unlike the previous one, this generation is more vocal, not just on Facebook or Twitter but also in person, which should explain why there have been more protests in these last few years than before. The ‘Chalta Hai’ attitude of the previous generation is now fading out and the youth are now beginning to find their voice. Hope that these young women and men will steer this country into the future very effectively.
Call for a change
Of all India voter categories, youth are most aspirational and most impatient. Migration of youngsters from rural to urban areas in search of employment has been accelerating, with the rural population decreasing from 82.1% in 1960 to 69.9% in 2010. During the same period, urbanised parts of the country increased from 17.9% of the population to 30.1%.
In cities, the youth are leading the call for change, such as in the protests that caught both the nation and the world’s imagination after the brutal Delhi gang rape in December 2012. The issues that most concern the young voter revolve around better employment opportunities, the containment of price rises, and corruption. They have become increasingly disillusioned with the incumbent Congress government, which has been discredited by continuous corruption scandals and an economy lagging under its watch.
*Dr Jawahar Surusetti is well know education & motivator