By Anil Nagar, CEO & Founder, Adda247
As of 2023, our country is now home to 1.417 billion people, surpassing China as the world’s most populous country by an estimated 5 million people. India has finally overtaken China in this metric as their population has been on the decline for years, driven by draconian, decades-long family planning policies. This has led to a dramatic reduction in its population over the last several years, forcing China to grapple with the twin issues of a rapidly aging population and a decline in workforce numbers, one that’s mirrored in developed countries around the world. The inverse has been true of India, on the other hand. Our country’s working-age population is expected to increase by over 100 million people by 2030 – an enormous influx of workers that has the potential to drive our economy to new heights.
This means that India now has the youngest, and largest, workforce of any country in the world. When the situation is viewed through this prism, India should rejoice. We’re in the midst of a demographic dividend – that golden sweet spot when the ratio of the working-age population is high and the dependency ratio in terms of the proportion of children and elderly people is low. If properly deployed, this period can be an engine of growth for India’s economy and see its GDP skyrocket from the current USD 3 trillion to 9 trillion by 2030, and 40 trillion by 2047.
Despite these lofty projections, however, the ground reality of the situation is far from promising. A demographic dividend is only of benefit if the new entrants to the workforce can find gainful employment and contribute as working members of society. And in our country, that is a long way from happening. This is primarily down to two pressing issues – first is a lack of sufficient employment. Millions of new graduates enter the workforce every year, all competing for a limited pool of job vacancies at their qualification level. Meanwhile, those who are unsuccessful have to settle for blue-collar or manual jobs, if they can find work at all. India’s unemployment rate currently sits above 7 percent, per the latest findings from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE).
The second issue has to do with the quality of the education on offer, and the subsequent job-readiness of many graduates. According to the World Economic Forum, of the 13 million people who join India’s workforce each year, only one in four management professionals, one in five engineers, and one in 10 graduates overall are employable. This means that India’s human capital, the growth engine that’s meant to propel our economy into the top rung, is at risk of stalling before ever getting underway. This situation can ultimately be traced back to one factor – an education system that consistently failings its students.
The education system in our country is the largest formal education system in the world. Over 1.6 million schools educate approximately 260 million students, and 39,000 accredited colleges oversee 27 million undergraduates and 4 million postgraduate students. These are enormous numbers, and so the presence of multiple issues inherent to the system should come as no surprise, whether it be outdated curriculums or an insufficient number of qualified professors. Although these issues are especially prevalent in rural India, the rapid growth of the edtech sector has gone a long way towards addressing these concerns. The digital presence of highly qualified institutions offering affordable and accessible curriculums to students, when paired with improving infrastructure and internet access, are helping bridge this divide.
It remains true, however, that the standard of education available to students in rural India continues to lag behind urban India. Ongoing infrastructural improvements need to occur at a faster pace to keep up with the growing demand for comprehensive education. Similarly, the quality of teaching needs to be brought up to modern standards to ensure students are prepared to enter the job market upon graduation without any additional training. This situation needs to urgently be addressed, given that the bulk of the nation’s future workers are poised to come from the hinterlands. A concerted public-private partnership, that sees government bodies work in concert with private educational partners, has the potential to upskill this massive body of youth and ensure their future contribution to India’s economic growth.
This can most efficiently be achieved by harnessing technological advances and digitisation to make quality education available to India’s rural areas. With the proper support extended to edtech companies, the enduring problems of providing accessible and affordable education in the hinterlands can finally be overcome. This will only further be strengthened by the recent push for the availability of learning materials and classes in vernacular languages. The ability to study in one’s native language is invaluable, and as more students are finally provided with this option through online classes and learning materials, we will quickly witness their true potential come to the fore. Here lies the route to truly unleash India’s demographic dividend.