Indian youth

Young India

Print edition : November 27, 2015
India has the highest number of young people in the world and is in the best position to realise a demographic dividend, provided proper policies are in place.

With falling infant mortality rates, improved access to health care and better living standards, there are an unprecedented 180 crore young people in the 10-24 year bracket in the world today, according to the United Nations Population Fund’s “The State of World Population 2014”. India is home to the largest number of them, 36.5 crore or 30 per cent of its total population of 121.08 crore, according to Census 2011 data. Young people account for about 25 per cent of the total world population. Census of 2011 data also show that the country’s total population of children and young people stands at slightly over 60 crore, including 23.97 crore children aged 0-9 years, accounting for nearly 50 per cent of the country's total population.

Owing to the combination of a greater working population and fewer dependents, India is in the best position to realise a “demographic dividend”, provided proper policies are in place.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), formerly the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, defines demographic dividend as the economic growth potential that can result from shifts in a population’s age structure, as economic productivity receives a boost when there is a greater number of people in the workforce relative to the number of dependents.

Among the world’s top 10 populous nations, China is behind India, with 26.9 crore young people, close to only 20 per cent of its total population, even though its total population is much higher than India’s.

Japan is at the bottom of the heap, with the lowest number and the lowest proportion of youth to the total population (14.2 per cent), followed by Russia (16.9 per cent). Both nations suffer from a serious demographic problem of old people vastly outnumbering the youth as a result of greater life expectancy and lower fertility rates.

India’s young people are mostly concentrated in rural areas (69.8 per cent) and the male-female divide among them closely mirrors that of the total population for both urban and rural regions. However, according to the Census figures, in absolute terms the male-female ratio is better among young people, with males outnumbering females only by 1.72 crore, compared with 3.58 crore for the total population. The gap is narrower in rural areas (1.19 crore) and the lowest in urban areas (55 lakh).

Within the most populous States, Uttar Pradesh has the highest percentage of youth (33.2 per cent), while Kerala is the worst performer (24.2 per cent), followed by Tamil Nadu. Kerala is also home to the highest percentage of senior citizens, again followed by its neighbour. However, the male-female disparity is also the highest in Uttar Pradesh, where male young people outnumber females by a whopping 42.95 lakh, followed by Bihar (21.92 lakh), Maharashtra (19.82 lakh), Rajasthan (12.75 lakh), Madhya Pradesh (12.08 lakh) and Gujarat (11.56 lakh). Kerala has the lowest disparity, at just 32,953, followed by Odisha (36,766).