From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much.
Mains level : Paper 2-Policy framework needed to reap the benefits of demographic dividends.
The demographic dividend is close to five-decade-long demographic opportunities that can be leveraged only with suitable policies and programmes
The youngest population in the world
- Median age at 28 years: 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.
- The demographic dividend
- The working-age population more than non-working: India’s working-age population has numerically outstripped its non-working age population.
- An extraordinary opportunity: A demographic dividend, said to have commenced around 2004-05, is available for close to five decades.
The two caveats
- The demographic dividend is an extraordinary opportunity. There are, however, two caveats.
- First: Dividend available in different states at different times.
- India’s population heterogeneity ensures that the window of demographic dividend becomes available at different times in different States.
- Example of Kerala vs. Bihar: While Kerala’s population is already ageing, in Bihar the working-age cohort is predicted to continue increasing till 2051.
- Decline in 11 major states by 2031: By 2031, the overall size of our vast working-age population would have declined in 11 of the 22 major States.
- Second: Many factors that matter for harnessing the dividend
- Factors that matter: Harnessing the demographic dividend will depend upon the-
- Employability of the working-age population.
- Vocational training and skill.
- Besides appropriate land and labour policies, as well as good governance.
- Demography is not destiny: India will gain from its demographic opportunity only if policies and programmes are aligned to this demographic shift. Demography is not destiny.
Need for skills
- Need for the additional jobs: The Economic Survey 2019 calls for additional jobs to keep pace with the projected annual increases in the working-age population.
- Lack of education and skills: 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.
- Possibility of demographic disaster: The projected demographic dividend would turn into a demographic disaster if an unskilled, under-utilised, and frustrated young population undermines social harmony and economic growth.
- Poor learning outcomes: 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 needs to be done?
- Adopt a uniform school system: 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.
- Ensure training in line with the market demand: Most districts now have excellent broadband connectivity-
- Let geography not trump demography: Irrespective of a rural or urban setting, the public school system must ensure that every child completes high school education, and is pushed into appropriate skilling, training and vocational education in line with market demand.
- Invest and modernise: 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.
- Use of technology: 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 workforce for next-generation jobs.
- Investing in open digital universities would further help yield a higher educated workforce.
Focus on women
- Translating literacy into skill: Growing female literacy is not translating into relevant and marketable skills.
- A comprehensive approach is needed to improve their prospects vis-à-vis gainful employment.
- Need of the flexible policies: 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.
- The need for equal pay: Equal pay for women will make it worth their while to stay longer in the workforce.
- The deferred bonus: Economist Yogendra Alagh has written that the significance of this “deferred bonus” (women entering the workforce), could be higher than the immediate benefits of the dividend from shifts in population age structure.
- In India, population health is caught between the rising demand for health services and competition for scarce resources.
- Impact of economy on rural health: 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.
- People are availing of private hospitals less than they used to, and are moving towards public health systems.
- Diverting public investment from However, central budget 2020-21 lays emphasis on private provisioning of health care which will necessarily divert public investment away from public health infrastructure.
- The Ayushman Bharat Yojana: It links demand to tertiary in-patient care.
- This promotes earnings of under-utilised private hospitals, instead of modernising and up-grading public health systems in each district.
- 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.
- The elderly population in India is projected to double from 8.6% in 2011 to 16% in 2040.
- This will sharply reduce the per capita availability of hospital beds in India across all major States unless investments in health systems address these infirmities.
The policies that we adopt and their effective implementation will ensure that our demographic dividend, a time-limited opportunity, becomes a boon for India.