13 Jul Tapping Potential of Youth
Posted at 13 Jul 2021 in Current Affairs, GS Paper I, GS Paper III, Indian Polity, Social Issues, Social Justice 0 Comments
(GS PAPER-3, SOCIETY
SOURCE- THE HINDU)
- In the country, over 62% of the population is aged between 15 and 59 years, and the median age of the population is less than 30 years. This means India is going through the stage or the advantage of ‘demographic dividend’ representing the potential and capabilities for economic growth based on the age structure of the population.
- However, transforming this potential and ability into reality requires adolescents and youth to be healthy and well-educated.
- A study on demographic dividend in India by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) shown that the window of demographic dividend opportunity in India is available for five decades from 2005-06 to 2055-56.
- Therefore, more than the fears of a ‘population explosion’, it is critical and essential that India focus attention on safeguarding young people’s well-being because India’s welfare hinges and curbing on them.
- According to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), demographic dividend simply means, “the economic growth potential that can result from shifts in a population’s age structure, mainly when the share of the working-age population (15 to 64) is frequently larger than the non-working-age share of the population (14 and younger, and 65 and older)”.
Challenges In Realising Youth Potential-
- Lack of Education and Skill: India’s underfunded education system is inadequately and less sufficiently equipped to provide the skills young people need to take advantage of emerging employment opportunities in the country. According to the World Bank, public expenditure on education is only 3.4% of GDP in 2020. Another report showed that India stands 62nd in terms of public expenditure per student, and fares badly in quality of education measures such as student-teacher ratios etc.
- Impact of the Pandemic: Various studies have shown that school closures have a serious impact on the learning, lives and mental well-being of children. A survey by the International Labour Organization (ILO) revealed that 65% of adolescents worldwide reported having learnt very little during the pandemic.
- Issues of Young Women: Child marriage, gender-based violence, their vulnerability to abuse, domestic violence and trafficking, especially if primary caregivers fall ill or die. All these issues restrict young women to achieve their full potential and capabilities.
- Jobless Growth: The main contributor to India’s GDP is covered by the service sector which is not labour intensive and thus adds to jobless growth. Further, about 50% of India’s population is still dependent on the primary sector i.e agriculture which is notorious for underemployment and disguised unemployment in the nation.
- Low Social Capital: Further high levels of hunger, malnutrition, stunting lower wasting among children, high levels of anaemia among adolescent girls, poor sanitation etc., have reduced the productivity of India’s youth in realising their potential.
- Inter-sectoral Collaboration: It is imperative and important to have in place mechanisms and a roadmap for better inter-sectoral collaboration to safeguard the futures of the young generation of the country. Coordination across departments can enable, accelerate and provide better solutions and greater efficiencies in tackling any crisis of the nation. Eg.: Mid-day meals scheme not only provides an incentive for parents to send their children to school but also provides the calorie intake required to stay alert and active in the classroom. Skill Development to increase and enhance employability of the young population. India’s labour force needs to be empowered and strengthened with the right skills for the modern economy. The government has established and invested in the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) with the overall target of skilling/up-skilling 500 million people in India by 2022.
- Improving Social Infrastructure: If India wants to leverage the economic potential of its youth segment, then it must invest and work in improving social infrastructure viz. good health, quality education, learning outcome and endeavour to provide decent employment to their entire population.
- Maintaining Basic Hygiene: As school closures have impacted access to schemes such as the delivery of menstrual hygiene products to adolescents, teachers can work as volunteers for collaborating with frontline health workers to distribute sanitary napkins to girls.
- Helpline For Youth: To address the mental health of adolescents, the Health and Education Ministries should strengthen outreach via existing helplines and by enabling conversations on critical issues regarding their reproductive and sexual health.
- Immediate Steps After Pandemic: It is important for policymakers to balance the risks of transmission through children with the harm of prolonged school closures. By prioritising the vaccination of teachers and school support staff and also allowing a decentralised approach where district-level officials may reopen schools based on local Covid-19 transmission rates, schools could be opened in a safe and phased manner.
- Improving the lives of youth in mission mode would lift their lives, generate a virtuous cycle with healthier and educated young adults contributing substantially to securing India’s future.
- The policies for the empowerment of youth and their effective implementation will ensure that demographic dividend, which is a time-limited opportunity, becomes a boon for India.