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Youth Bulge: Bliss or Bane

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By: Mool Raj

Any society’s and country’s future is viewed through the lens of its youth. India’s population is extremely young. India has one of the world’s largest young populations, with over 64% of the population under the age of 30. Economists often argue that “A youth bulge can either become a demographic dividend or a time bomb, depending on how young population is engaged in productive activities”. Rather than harnessing the young population’s vitality for increased productivity and economic progress, the situation in India today is just the contrary.

Unfortunately, lack of work opportunity, social connections, unequal education and health amenities, along with social inequities, antiquated traditions, and society’s restrictive attitude towards the youth, are all pushing factors to turn this dividend into a ticking bomb. They get a little chance to prove that they have potential. As a result, when the youth have little hope for their future, they become frustrated.Access to education remains poor in the country, and the passing rate for primary school is among the lowest in the world. It’s worth noting that education accounts for only 1.5 percent (2020-2021) of the country’s budget, compared to 4.02 percent for defense. It is clearly supported by the fact that India ranks 154 out of 189 countries in the Human Development Index and 162 in the Global Youth Development Index.

Current policies are insufficient to bring about the required change. While current education policy focuses heavily on quantity – more schools, more teachers – the statistics of the UNDP Report reveal that quality determines quantity .Indian youth, particularly those in metropolitan areas, are under more stress than their rural counterparts, owing to a lack of work prospects and fierce competition. Furthermore, traditional mindsets and social pressures pertaining to the selection of profession, marriage, and other life choices have exacerbated the problem. India seen a substantial reduction in public spaces, as well as possibilities for youths to meet and connect with other individuals, throughout the year.

According to UNDP research, 60% of people have never visited another province and 90% have never been provided recourse to sports facilities. Many young individuals have become increasingly alienated and bigoted as a result of their lack of exposure to people outside of their society.The government should ensure high-quality education, vocational skill training, and fair employment prospects for young people, and alleviate their health and other issues. Political engagement, thus, prevails both as a challenge and a channel for engagement. Young people want to be active participants in the political process and in their communities, but often don’t have the resources to do so.

The failure of successive governments to grasp the potential of early youth investment has resulted in a system in which social indices have barely improved. With the proper policies in place, India ’s youth might become the driving force behind the country’s success. The government, on the other hand, has yet to reap the benefits of its “demographic dividend.” Furthermore, India has a limited window of opportunity to capitalize on its shifting age structure, which may not arise again for many generations. According to the NHDR, the population would age twice as fast as many Western countries by 2035.

If the right policies and strategies aren’t implemented today to constructively engage youth in their communities, facilitate quality education, and secure future livelihoods, the greatest workforce in India’s history would become marginalized, dogmatic, vulnerable to fuse into violent groups, and ineffectual to contribute to the economy or the overall development of the state. The government should ensure high-quality education, vocational skill training, and fair employment prospects for young people, and alleviate their health and other issues. It should also be made sure that everyone has the same access to education in an environment that encourages the exploration of new perspectives and critical thinking. It is more imperative to provide sufficient employment possibilities for youth in order to alleviate their frustrations and sensitivities, which will lower their chances of becoming radicalized or violent extremists.

Encouraging and supporting entrepreneurs can lead the process of job creation. Relaxation of the barriers to entrepreneurship can be opted as a strategy for harnessing the youth bulge. The government should also promote new firms, offer tax incentives to young entrepreneurs and employees, promote domestic and global tourism, and seek to generate resources through sports and festivals. Economic advancement, good governance, and social and sustainable development all benefit from a demographic dividend. The government should work to underpin its political will in order to assure the integrity and to improve overall education, employment opportunities, and youth development programs, all of which impede youth participation in nation-building. The “economic miracle” that several East Asian economies have enjoyed could be replicated in India . Nevertheless, the government’s achievement will be determined in large part by how well it responds to the exigencies of young people and how efficiently it uses these resources.

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