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India In A Capability Trap

The UN has confirmed that India overtook China to become world’s most populous country in April 2023, as the population of the South Asian nation touched 1,425,775,850. A number of people have expressed serious concern over the development. It may be noted that Thomas Robert Malthus (February 13/14, 1766 – December 29, 1834) had expressed a similar concern nearly 250 years ago.

In his 1798 publication ‘An Essay on the Principle of Population‘, the English economist, cleric and scholar who was influential in the fields of Political Economy and Demography, mentioned that if the rate of agricultural production failed to keep pace with the rate of population growth, then human civilisation would experience severe famine and hunger. Malthus stated that it would cause the population to decline dramatically, and return to normal levels. As far as the long-term impact of an economic thought on Statecraft, Politics or Social Policy is concerned, Malthus’ theory is an important one. However, it is evident in history that Malthus was wrong. Since the Second World War, the global population has nearly doubled, while the GDP per capita has increased fivefold. In fact, technological advancement has turned population into resources. Therefore, according to some, there is no reason to worry about India becoming the most populous country in the world.

Many believe that India has got an opportunity to reap the Demographic Dividend or the advantage of having a large number of younger generations in its population. Demographic Dividend depends mainly on four factors: Employment, Education and Skills, Health and Good Governance. If India can provide its working population with decent employment opportunities, then it can enjoy the benefits of its Demographic Dividend. It is also possible for India to pave the way for its economic prosperity by increasing the lifespan of people by ensuring proper education systems, creating skills and preventing various diseases and disabilities. A healthy and efficient workforce is not only important for increasing productivity, but also reduces the financial burden on the Government, apart from generating capital for the country.

Incidentally, India’s population can make it one of the world powers… not only as consumers, but also as a workforce. Now, India is one of the youngest countries in the world. India shall have nearly 20% of the global workforce in the next 25 years, and 62% of the Indian population shall be in the working age bracket. As a result, the country can enjoy the Demographic Dividend for the next couple of decades.

Unfortunately, India is still neglecting its education, health and other important sectors. From primary education to employment or health services, the scenario is not at all promising in the world’s Largest Democracy. India is stuck in the Capability Trap mainly due to lack of proper planning, in spite of knowing its destination and route. Experts are of the opinion that India needs to focus on education, health and sound policy-making in order to get out of this situation. Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea have already shown how to reap the benefits of the Demographic Dividend. India should follow their path for its own economic development.

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