Tech skills powering India’s demographic dividend

By Asheesh Sharma, President, Certifications and Bootcamps, upGrad

Studies predict that India will become the third-largest economy in the world, hitting a GDP of $5 trillion by 2027. This puts India at the cusp of a transformative journey. Among the many factors driving this unprecedented growth is the country’s demographic dividend – a term coined by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to describe the defines demographic dividend as ‘the economic growth potential that can result from shifts in a population’s age structure, mainly when the share of the working-age population (15 to 64) is larger than the non-working-age (14 younger and 65 older) share of the population.

In numbers, this massive demographic dividend is estimated at over 600 million people between the ages of 18 and 35. Further, the share of the working-age population (20-59 years) is expected to peak by 2041 at 59%. This youth population makes up around one-fifth of the total world youth population. These numbers indicate both a driving force and an extraordinary opportunity. However, India is projected to face a significant skill deficit of 29 million by 2030. The fact is if we are to take advantage of this dividend, it must be translated into tangible economic success. We need our vast workforce to be empowered with the right kind of skills.

Technology has a unique characteristic in that it evolves to solve problems and fulfill our needs. Technology is also the only sector that has always continuously grown. If we are to take advantage of the huge demographic dividend, then not only will we have to leverage technology to do it, but also provide the latest, industry-relevant tech skills. We are in an era where technology underpins every aspect of our lives. The importance of tech skills in today’s world cannot be overstated. In many ways, tech is Occam’s Razor solution to the problem of taking advantage of the demographic dividend. However, as the working-age population swells, the challenge is not just to deliver and acquisition of relevant skills, but also to ensure that all resources go towards tech skills that will drive the future.

This ranges from basic digital literacy to advanced skills in artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics, cybersecurity, and blockchain. The digital economy is growing at an exponential rate, creating a high demand for tech-savvy professionals. The demand is not confined to the IT industry but spans across all sectors, including healthcare, finance, manufacturing, and education. By equipping the youth with tech skills, we can not only meet India’s internal need for skilled talent but also position the country as a global center for talent in the digital age. The right tech skills can also light the entrepreneurial spark in the youth to embrace innovation and build start-ups, driving economic growth and job creation.

Skilling and consequential gainful employment exposes the youth to the rest of the country and even the world. This helps in bridging socio-cultural gaps in society, leveling the playing field irrespective of gender, socio-economic or cultural background to create a more inclusive society and empowering the marginalised. By focusing on tech skills, India can ensure inclusive and equitable growth that taps into the potential of the entire working-age population bringing in investment from all parts of the world. Along with tech skills, we must also ensure that our workforce is given the necessary communication skills to adapt culturally
and navigate diverse environments to thrive in a globalised economy and an interconnected world.

A multi-pronged approach to developing tech skills must include:
● Strengthening Tech Education with a sharper focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and integrating practical tech skills training from an early age.
● Democratizing education and tech skills training making it accessible to all, especially underserved communities. Women must be encouraged to participate.
● Enhancing collaboration between industry, government, and academia to ensure the tech skills taught are aligned with market needs and standards.
● Promoting Tech Entrepreneurship by encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship through incubators, funding, and mentorship programs focused on technology.

India’s demographic dividend is an opportunity to catapult our economy into a leading position. Tech skills will help to transform our demographic dividend from just a phenomenon into a catalyst for a tech-driven economic transformation. By prioritizing tech education and training to develop tech skills, we can unlock the immense potential of our workforce, driving not just innovation and economic growth, but social inclusion. With technologies, manufacturing practices and service delivery systems changing fast, skilling in disciplines such as automation, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, and robotics which cater to the needs of Industry 4.0 is a must, especially if a sustainable $5 trillion economy in the next three years is the goal. The time to act is now, for our future and that of the world.

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