Ministry of Human Resource Development draws up plans to make 2020s India’s decade as workforce peaks
A report estimates that by 2020 India will have 116 million workers in the age group of 20-24 years.
In a recent presentation to the 15th Finance Commission, the HRD ministry has pitched for a Rs 36,000-crore higher education plan, pointing to the urgent need to prepare an employable workforce for the coming decade, for an Asean-like 'economic miracle'.
While recommending a ‘4E growth mantra’— educate, energise, employ and empower—the ministry has emphasised the need to focus on the ‘virtuous cycle’ that will emerge with a reduced dependent population, increased savings, investment in human resources, higher productivity and higher growth rates.
The ministry has also underlined the need to boost access to higher education with focus on quality and cognitive skills; energising with a national movement on wellness backed with universal affordable health care; increasing employability through linking of education and skills and focusing on higher skills and apprenticeships integrated in education.
Empowerment, the ministry suggests, will come with promotion of volunteerism, bringing youth in governance and promotion of culture.
The new workforce
The ministry posits that with total fertility rate coming down, it is likely to fall below replacement rate (2.1) over next few years. It is estimated that in 13 of the 22 major states/UTs, it is already under 2.1.
ILO estimates show the workforce increasing significantly between 2011 and 2031, after which it will plateau up to 2041. At the same time, estimates indicate that the overall ‘dependent population’ will decline from 49.5% in 2011 to 41.1% bringing in an ‘unprecedented opportunity for rapid growth’.
There will be, however, other impact of this ‘demographic dividend’.
The ministry has pointed to a drastic fall in school-going children (5-14 years) amid falling fertility rates, even though huge school infrastructure will be available. On the other hand, the hospital and health infrastructure is expected to fall severely short of the demand.
The demographics of education
The ministry has been consistently flagging concern over the “critical stage of development that our nation is going through”.
The ministry’s internal report on its five-year plan cites estimates as per which by 2020, India will have 116 million workers in the age group of 20-24 years as against 94 million in China. This will mean that the average age in India by 2020 will be 29 years while in many developed countries it will be in the 40s.
The population median projections for the various states in 2026, as studied by the ministry, indicate that Uttar Pradesh will be the youngest state in 2026, with a median age of 26.85 years. Bihar, MP, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, too will have a relatively young population The HRD ministry has underlined the need as much to take advantage of this demographic dividend as “to prevent socio-economic complications arising out of a large unemployable young population”.
The draft National Education Policy also mentions that “the demographic dividend that India is fortunate to have is expected to last for only a little over 20 years” and the necessity to equip children and youth with the knowledge and skills that would enable them “to contribute to India’s social, economic, and political transformation”.