Monday, 1 August 2011

Resultant demographic scenario and its implications for India (Part I)

In the previous blog , I discussed the major findings of the Census of India 2011. This blog analyses their implications. At the first glance, results seem encouraging. However, the resultant demographic scenario has long term implications for India’s social-economic development. The discuss has been divided into the following parts:

  • Slow pace towards population stabilization,
  • Demographic dividend or disaster,
  • Emerging demographic divide, and
  • Slow progress towards women empowerment.

Slow pace towards population stabilization:
The provisional results suggest strongly that the rate of population growth is now falling. However, the fall in India's rate of population growth should not obscure the magnitude of the decadal addition mainly due to “population momentum”. India’s population will grow by 16-17 million annually in coming decades since more than 50 percent of its population is in the reproductive age (15-49). As a result, millions more will join this cohort each year, since the number of persons less than 15 years of age will increase continuously in coming decades, as shown by the Population Reference Bureau projections. As a result, it may take several decades more to stabilize the population.

Demographic dividend or disaster:
Around 50 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people are below 25 years of age, which put the Indian economy in a demographic sweet spot (also referred as “demographic dividend”). However, having a large workforce is only an advantage when it can contribute in a meaningful way to the economy. This is something yet to be realized in the country. India’s disadvantage is its growing unskilled, uneducated workforce which could undermine its global competitive strengths and expose the economy to the risk of stagnation. The recent statistics from the Ministry of Human Resources Development, Government of India show a significant decline in primary school enrollments, especially in the four large north Indian States of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan. While commenting on this, a well known novelist, Chetan Bhagat rightly observed that “Given Indian demographics, where the numbers of children is increasing every year, the results are even more shocking”. He warns, “If today millions aren’t being educated well, how will they get proper jobs tomorrow? Won’t the education crisis translate into far scarier job crisis in the few years?” Unless India improves the quality of human resources, the country is inching closer to demographic disaster.

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