For years, India’s booming population was under a firestorm of acerbic criticism. Even the book – Famine 1975! America’s Decision: Who Will Survive? – advocated the policy of forsaking food policy to the hopeless countries including India and let the population starve so as to stabilize the global population.
Even as a decade ago when India officially crossed 1 billion mark in 2000, many experts considered this as a major liability. With adding over 181 million heads more to its humongous population since then, India has been most often found on the wrong side of a tongue lashing and considered as a country that has failed to provide basic necessities to its gigantic population size.
Today, the population of India stands tall at 1.27 billion, and equates to the combined population of Pakistan, Brazil, US, Japan, Indonesia and Bangladesh. Currently, it supports up to 17.5% of the entire world’s population.
Over 50% of India’s current population is below the age of 25 and over 65% below the age of 35. This implies that a major section of the country’s population comprises of students and young workers, which in turn are more than the dependents. So, it’s a good indicator for the nation’s economy. As India continues to add more people than any other nation on the globe, it’s now poised to have one of the biggest talent pool in the world.
Demographically, does that qualify as a dividend or a disaster?
No longer is India’s thriving population considered a liability. Experts opine that the country does not need to be a worry wart about its burgeoning population and that it’s an asset. Now its massive young population is being looked upon as the country’s greatest resource since this able population can be trained into a capable working population for an economically productive nation.
With a mere 2.4% of the global landmass sheltering 16% of the world population, all Indian governments face the uphill task of taking measures to reduce ever-mounting pressure on dwindling resources, and turn its youth population turns into an economic asset. Lest this feat is accomplished, it’s nothing more than a liability as millions of mouth to be fed get added to the population every year. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The government of India states that 402 million Indians are aged between 15 to 59 – the working age – and that these figures will rise to 820 million by 2020. This age advantage is actually a demographic dividend, an unprecedented opportunity that India can exploit to its huge advantage by infusing new dynamism into the country’s strained economy. The future is bright. Such vast man power is indeed a blessing in disguise for the country. This skilled man power simply needs to be combined with resources to be considered an asset. The gigantic population of India that makes for a big consumer market too has now become an asset.
The English-speaking, skilled man workforce has opened new doors to the global enterprises, hunting for quality-backed offshore outsourcing services available at relatively much affordable rates. India is a home to 2.5 million IT & life science graduates every year in addition to 6.5 million post graduates in science and related subjects. This young, talented population can really serve as a great source of country’s development.
However, these apparently favorable demographics are not devoid of its set of grave challenges. There exists a yawning gap between the vast workforce available and the job opportunities that are floating around. Employability issue is certainly a heated topic of debate. Also, there exists great numbers of unskilled Indian workers. Shockingly, only 5% of India’s labor force is estimated to have had any formal training, and the remaining still needs to develop the right skills matching the modern job scenario. It calls for the huge-scale development of the country’s human scale. To kick start this skill growth engine, the Union Government of India announced new job policies in the 12th five-year-plan that aim to generate over 100 million jobs by 2022 in different manufacturing sectors.
As the services sector continues to grow and strengthens the economy, it’s imperative to bridge the widening gap between the skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labor. Also regional disparities emerging to supply the labor to address the demand forces the movement of labor force to the states that demand them. Kerala is a fantastic examples of this. To support varied economic activities in Kerala, states like Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal and Assam supply the surplus labor. However, Kerala’s own work force is keen on grabbing employment opportunities abroad, primarily Gulf countries. This strengthens Kerala’s economy manifold.
As India is predominantly an agricultural country, this alarming growth rate in population has pressed the panic button since our production of essential commodities such as food grains can be limited to address the needs of such vast population, though we’re self-reliant as of now. The Malthusian Theory of Population Explosion stands valid in such a scenario. As the population blooms over the 1.27 billion mark, feeding these multi-million mouths can pose a huge challenge in future. Current galloping inflation is a just a feeler of a monumental gap surfacing between the demand and supply curve.
The burgeoning population is, however, mounting enormous power on our limited infrastructure and natural resources that have been brutally exploited and squeezed to the tilt. Our finite wealth of natural resources is likely to crash under the increasing pressure of fast-growing Indian population. It has also resulted in the exponential increase in the number of poverty-stricken, malnourished and uneducated people resulting in a sharp slide in the standard of living. Not only this, this population explosion has put excessive pressure on current housing sector, transport network, health care, education and food production. Poverty is intrinsically linked to the exponential growth in India’s population.
No political party in India has until now showed its political will to introduce population check policy. The time is high when we all get above political expediency or democratic compulsions to curb the human population. Rather, it must be our aim to improve the quality of our population and standard of living.