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Reaping the demographic dividend
January 25, 2016, 1:07 pm
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Today, India is a dynamic, young nation with over half of its 1.2 billion population below the age of 25, including more than 225 million in the higher-education ready age group of 14 to 19. Furthermore, according to projections by the International Labor Organization (ILO), India will also have 116 million workers in the work-starting age bracket of 20 to 24 years. It is estimated that by 2020, the median age of the Indian population will be 29 years, compared to 40 years in the US, 46 years in Europe and 47 years in Japan.

In fact, it is projected that in the next 15 years, the labor force in the industrialized world will decline by 4 percent and in China by 5 percent, while in India it is set to increase by 32 percent. Along with falling fertility numbers what this young demographic portends is that in the first-half of the 21st century India will have a young and vibrant workforce.

The potential productivity of this youth dividend is that the country could see two percentage points added to its per capita GDP growth every year for the next two to three decades. However, key to harnessing this demographic dividend is providing the young with access to high-quality education and training, so that they are equipped to take advantage of opportunities presented and to meet the needs required of workforce in the 21st century. With data from around the world making it increasingly clear that the quality of education provided to youth will determine to a large extent the social and economic progress that the country makes, it is incumbent upon India to invest even more in education.

Education remains the most important instrument today for empowering India’s young demographic and is absolutely essential for an individual’s self-realization, social mobility and economic progress. Since its establishment in 1956, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has played a significant role in the growth and development of higher-education in India. By designing innovative programs, implementing various schemes and providing academic, administrative and financial support to universities in the country, the UGC has attempted to foster quality higher education in the country.

Nevertheless, the surfeit of educational institutions mushrooming around the country has meant that the deliverance of quality education has suffered. While the quantity of those graduating Reaping the demographic dividend Today, India is a dynamic, young nation with over half of its 1.2 billion population below the age of 25, including more than 225 million in the higher-education ready age group of 14 to 19.

Furthermore, according to projections by the International Labor Organization (ILO), India will also have 116 million workers in the work-starting age bracket of 20 to 24 years. It is estimated that by 2020, the median age of the Indian population will be 29 years, compared to 40 years in the US, 46 years in Europe and 47 years in Japan. each year keeps increasing, the quality of these graduates leave much to be desired and often they have no relevance to the requirements of the job market. According to industry experts, only 25 percent of technical graduates and about 15 percent of other graduates are considered employable by the IT/ITES industry.

Another survey conducted on MBA students across different cities in India revealed that only a meager percentage were considered employable. If India is to harness its demographic dividend, then our educational institutions will need to be revamped so as to provide the kind of education needed to create employable youth. There is an immediate need for a holistic and symbiotic association between industry and academia to make employable graduates.

There is also an immediate need for moving from ‘generic model’ of education to a ‘learner-centered’ model of education. The students should be mentored to make their careers in the areas of their strength and abilities. If India is to harness its demographic dividend, then our educational institutions will need to be revamped so as to provide the kind of education needed to create employable youth.

To transform the collective energy of India’s youngsters into innovative ideas, well-developed skills, and to equip them with a sense of confidence, hope and capability, the country will first need to exert efforts to address challenges that continue to plaque our education and training. If we succeed, we ensure the prosperity of the people and the country; if we fail our youth today, we risk this potential demographic dividend turning into a demographic disaster.

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