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India’s Rising Young Seek Larger Role

April 2007
India’s Rising Young Seek Larger Role

Here's a buzz-worthy term that's bandied about these days by India-watchers: Demographic Dividend. Though India's population boom – long seen as a bane – routinely draws attention, what's even more noteworthy is the ongoing demographic shift. The proportion of young Indians, already larger than before, will continue to increase over the next several years. About 35 percent are between the ages of 15 and 59, considered the prime years for employment; by 2020, this group will account for 64 percent of India's population. Given that 550 million Indians are below 25 years, one shouldn't be too surprised by this trend. Over half the population (55 percent, as per MindShare Insights) will be below 20 years by 2015. The expanding bulge of India's working-age population, according to experts, will pay off rich dividends, provided the challenges are dealt with properly. And that remains the crux of the debate, since the tantalizing opportunities are matched by formidable problems in the foreseeable future.

The declining fertility rate, a welcome development in the Indian context, has been cited as a key reason for this demographic shift. India's resulting age advantage cannot be underestimated. A good portion of the developed world is rapidly graying. By 2020, the average age in Japan will be as high as 48. In Western Europe, it'll be 45; in the U.S. and China, it'll be 37. In India, by contrast, the average age will only be 29. But on the flip side, as some point out, if enough decent jobs aren't created to satisfy the burgeoning demand, the ranks of the educated unemployed will swell dramatically, turning India's demographic advantage into a deficit. Acquiring the right skills will remain important, not just for the people but also for the overall progress and prosperity of the nation.

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