Muralidhar Rao

A half century after political independence from West, Asian economies are re-emerging. In terms of GDP, China is expected to be the front runner by 2040, leaving the US far behind. India is projected to overtake China later this century. The wheel is turning full circle. India and China’s contribution to the world GDP went from a high of 24.5 per cent and 33 per cent respectively (in 1750) to a low of 1.7 per cent and 6.2 per cent, as their economies shattered under industrial revolution-fuelled imperialism. Balance is only now being restored.

 

India and China enjoy a huge demographic advantage, with a population of 3.6 billion, nearly half that of the world. India enjoys the demographic dividend of a largely young population, unlike China. In the West, the dependency ratio is increasing, while it has reduced considerably in India in the last few decades, from 81 in 1964 to 55 in 2010. China’s one child policy of China has increased its dependency ratio.

 

India boasts a billion people under 45 years of age, which is 75 per cent of the total population. China, by comparison, has 900 million people below 45. This trend is projected to continue. By 2020, the average age in India will be 29, in Chinese 37  and in Japan,  48.

 

India’s development challenges will thus be radically different from those of the developed world. Employment, food security, education, health and proper utilization of resources will have to be addressed keeping this segment in view. For instance, our education system, which could have been our key strength and a millenial game changer,  does not focus on skill development and employability. The spending on education has increased by more than 350 per cent between 1999  and 2009, but the results are not proportional to the expenditure. Even though 12.8 million people join the job market every year, only 2 per cent of the total workforce in India undergoes skills training. According to the recent survey by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), the employment rate in India dropped to 0.83 per cent in the period 2004-’05 to 2009-’10, while it was 2.66 per cent in the period 1999-2000 to 2004-’05. As of January, 2012, the total number of unemployed people in India was 10.8 million.

 

First-time voters in 2014 are estimated to be around 15 crores (nearly 20 per cent of total voters). Another 30 per cent of the electorate is below 35 year of age. The majority of this youth population in the age group of 18-35 are educated. The new generation is vocal, confident, questioning and dynamic. The demographic dividend coupled with technology penetration has created a new dynamic. India’s youth now participate in a global market and therefore, the nation cannot afford to fall behind the rest of the world in terms of employment, development, governance, economic progress and national security. The youth are initiating and participating in the debate on these issues and are determined to shape the outcome of the 2014 general elections.

 

Sensitive to pan-Indian issues like price rise, corruption, internal security and gender equity, this generation’s approach is participative. They are not inclined to be mute spectators. Thus, after 9 years of UPA rule, they are looking for change, for new leadership that can deliver. Narendra Modi’s performance as Chief Minister of Gujarat has convinced many that he is a doer, someone who understands and encourages their aspirations and will help realize their goals – both national and individual. Small wonder he has emerged as an icon for young India.