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When a Curse Becomes a Boon

Optimists seem to consider it to be an elixir for all of India's economic and socio-cultural issue; every politician waxes eloquently over it. What has been considered to be a drag to our economic growth, prosperity and our future is now what is the key to our forceful and energetic thrust into the third decade of the 21st century. Soon, the thrumming, vibrant and raring-to-go youth will shake the world's markets. This is what is India's much hyped demographic dividend is all about.

The Indian Youth : The Ticket to the Future
This is no new phenomenon, in fact to the contrary, it's been boiling since the 1960s. Unlike what many think, India has taken great strides since Independence. We have drastically reduced child mortality and this has given rise to a gigantic baby boom. This of course dragged down our national growth for this meant that one worker now had to earn for more people. But now the time is soon coming for all the children who were a part of this baby boom to enter the working age. This will result in a huge influx into the job market, which the global village needs most urgently for Western countries are fast aging (median age is 25 in India whereas in the Western World it is 40).
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This will mean that there will now be more workers than dependents, which is a bonanza for any economy. China is already deep into it's demographic dividend but it's all set to end soon, some believe it might even end within the next 30 months. Even the Asian miracle economies were actually benefiting from a demographic dividend, which added a whopping 2% to their annual growth of per capita income. India's time is fast approaching, which is why I persist in being optimistic about our future despite some depressing economic news.

Importantly, it is the rural areas which are particularly young with 52% of the people being below 24, while the figures stood at 46% for Urban India. The cradle of this youth bulge is primarily traditionally backward states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which have also interestingly seen sharp increases in literacy rates - 16.8% and 11.5% respectively with an even better rise among women. This means this demographic dividend also retains some amount of quality.

The sweetener - a lion's share of this baby boom youngstsers are well educated. Even though our working age population has risen in the past 10 years, actual employment is rather the same. This means that the boom has been delayed and the reason - education. I'm turning 15 next year, which makes me a part of the labour force but I won't start working until I am in the 20s. This means though our demographic dividend has been delayed, it's quality has been enriched with our youngsters set to be more skilled, educated and literate.

Over 300 million youngsters above 15 years of age are studying today rather than working. This includes millions of girls, ensuring greater women participation in the society. So all these years, our population might have been dampened by a huge population, our infusion of young blood into the global village will be our trump card. In the youth, India is set to see it's tryst with destiny!

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