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Population, Life-Expectancy & Disparities

The United Nations (UN) recently confirmed that the World Population reached eight billion on November 15, 2022. In a report, the UN claimed that the Global Population would touch 9.7 billion in 2050, and cross the 10.4 billion mark in 2100. In other words, the population will grow; however, the rate of growth will slow down, gradually.

The population growth rate is also declining in India among all ethnic and religious groups. As per the statistics of the fifth phase of the National Family Health Survey, the population growth rate in the South Asian country is less than 1% per annum, while the overall birth rate stands at 2%, below the replacement rate. Demographers have predicted that India’s population will reach its peak of 1.6 billion in 2048, and it will continue to decrease after that. Hence, India has no reason to worry about its population growth. Instead, population can become one of the major strengths of India… not only as buyers, but also as a labour force.

Population wise, India is now one of the youngest countries in the world. Nearly 20% of the global workforce will be in India in the next 25 years, and 62% of the Indian population will be in the age-bracket of working population. It is called Demographic Dividend. However, India will get the opportunity to enjoy this dividend for the next two-three decades, and thereafter, the South Asian nation will follow the path of China, as the proportion of senior citizens in the population will gradually increase. Senior citizens are not functional, and dependent on others in various ways. So, India will have to utilise the dividend as much as possible in those two-three decades.

It would be a difficult task to utilise the dividend mainly because of (India’s) lack of preparation. In its budget for the 2022-23 financial year, the Government of India has allocated a little amount for the Education Sector. From Primary Education to Higher or Technical Education, there is no such allocation that suggests that India is eager to realise the potential of the Demographic Dividend. According to India Skill Report 2021, only 46% of India’s youth are employable. Employability rates are even lower in fields that require more skills. On the other hand, the participation rate of women in the workforce is constantly decreasing. Nearly 32% of the Indian women, aged 15 and over, were earners in 2005. The figure decreased to 28.7% in 2019-20. It means there is a lack of sufficient skill in India on the one hand, and women are forced to stay away from the workforce on the other. These have badly hit the real strength of India’s workforce.

The policymakers in India, seemingly, have failed to understand the changing psychology of the modern workforce. Management expert Rajiv Talreja has explained that the World of Business has seen three generations of workforce… the Industrial Revolution, the Information Revolution and the Social Revolution. During the Industrial Revolution, people used to take a job for survival, as they wanted to ensure the basic necessities… food, clothing and shelter. So, they did not leave their workplaces even if the boss was abusive and would physically harass them. That was the era of ‘Boss is always right‘, because opportunities were lesser. They are pretty much the grandparents of today’s workforce.

Then came the Information Revolution, when all the Information Technology (IT) companies and brands came into existence, and the workforce came to work not for survival, because their parents had already taken care of survival. Instead, they went to work for a better Standard of Living. Basically, they wanted to gain access to salaries that are good enough to pay for the house EMI (Equated Monthly Instalments), the car EMI and education loan for children. For this generation, the loyalty was reduced. The truth is that loyalty never existed in the first place, but there was no option either. After the Information Revolution, the workforce got that option… a better quality of workplace, and a better pay. These factors encouraged people to change their jobs at the slightest opportunity possible. However, the Information Revolution died after the 2008 Global Recession, and the Era of Social Revolution began.

Today, nearly all sorts of information are available for free, as one can learn coding on YouTube. The person does not visit an institute to learn coding, as it is no longer a hidden knowledge. Hence, one needs to understand that we live in a Social or Digital Revolution now, where everything is social. It means today’s workforce does not care about survival, as their grandparents had taken care of that. They also do not care about standard of living, as their parents took care of that. Even a labour does not care about standard of living anymore, because s/he has a dish TV at her/his residence. So, if an employer plans to chastise an employee by employing a wage-cut, the latter may well tell the superior: “Thank you so much. I will find another job.” Today’s workforce needs something else. They want Quality of Life, and not Standard of Life. It means quality of workplace, job, environment, role, opportunities, learning and rewards, etc. Unless the industrialists have a mechanism for that, they will always grapple with retention challenges. And, the industrialists require support from the State to overcome this challenge.

A possible way out of this situation is to spend a substantial amount on Education. It is important for the Government to allocate at least 6% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to the Education Sector. Now, the allocation is just 3% of the GDP in India. Private capital in the Education Sector is welcome. However, the Government would have to decide how to align it with the larger interests of the country.

At the same time, the Government would also have to give emphasis on special arrangements for women workers at workplaces. It is important to ensure their safety, maternity leave, crèche for children, clean toilets, etc. Most importantly, the Government would have to take care of all sections of people in order to utilise the Demographic Dividend. A liberal, universal and inclusive political culture, as well as social beliefs, is the only long-term path to achieve economic prosperity.

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