India is an old civilisation but a young nation. It is a country with a more young population than any other country in the world.
By 2022, the median age in India is going to be 28 years as compared to 37 years in China and the US, its perceived main competitors to lead the world economy in this century.
This supposedly demographic dividend, with having a working-age population more than children and pensioners, India will be enjoying at least till 2050.
The situation is going to get worse as the pandemic refuses to go away and the economy slumps further. Likely, a large portion of India’s idle and angry youths might furthermore get attracted to spiteful strands of religious and cast based sectarianism, bringing more social and group unrest to the country and the region
While Japan and many European countries are worried about their ageing population and its impact on their economies, the Indian government has regularly projected the population’s age advantage in claiming to have the edge in economic competition with others.
When an economy offers opportunities, a young population with skilled education can be a great asset for a country. But, when there are no jobs for the youth and the social system suffers from discriminatory practices, that can bring massive challenges for the social peace and political order.
- Why is CBI the go to agency in India for investigation?
- From the editors: Controversy over the LOL dolls and ceasefire in Libya
- India’s Mahindra unveils all-new 2021 Thar SUV
- Indian Muslim artisan fights COVID-19 slowdown with Hindu idols
- Photos: Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations begin in India amid COVID-19 restrictions
Almost 4 years ago, just before Trump administration was taking over, the US National Intelligence Council (NIC) in early 2017 had warned the incoming President about India’s ‘youth crisis’.
At that time, the NIC had predicted that India needs to create nearly 10 million jobs annually to accommodate its newly entering labour force, otherwise a section of the youth might get radicalised and possibly leading to social unrest in the country.
India’s unemployment rate in 2011 was only 3.8% but it reached 5.36% in 2019. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought an unimaginable economic misery in the country since March 2020. In August 2020, the unemployment rate in India has already touched at 9.1%.
As per the data available from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), since April 2020, 18.9 million Indians receiving regular salaries have lost their jobs, and that number is 5 million in July only. Adding to these numbers, 6.8 million daily wage earners have also lost their jobs during this period.
India is not creating new jobs but losing its existing jobs in millions. The matter of serious concern is the increasing number of jobless educated youth in the country.
A report published this month prepared by the International Labor Organization and the Asian Development Bank estimates that nearly 4-6 million youths of 15 to 24 years will lose their jobs in India due to the COVID-19 pandemic. India is also far behind in providing vocational or technical training to its youth to enable them to be self-employed.
While the country is facing serious job crises and also continues to remain as the world’s one of the COVID-19 pandemic hotspots, the youth population which was being seen as a dividend is threatening to become a cataclysm. Even if the COVID-19 crisis comes to an end soon which is highly unlikely, there are serious doubts over the recovery of India’s economy to its glory days.
Economy on a downward slope
Before the COVID-19, India had already experienced a serious economic slump. In 2019, Moody had downgraded its GDP forecast for India three times. India’s real GDP growth had reached 4.5% in 2019, the lowest since 2014. India’s economy has been on a downward slope since the decision was taken on demonetisation in 2016 and it has not recovered since then.
India’s present economic crisis is neither cyclical nor pandemic induced, it is structural. There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic and the mismanagement of the lockdown and the resulting migrant crisis have pushed the economy to so low that there are serious doubts over its ability to recover in near future.
Even some pro-regime business leaders have started warning that India’s GDP might shrink at least 5% in 2020.
The NIC had warned in 2017 of a youth crisis in India if it fails to create 10 million new jobs annually. But, forget the creation of new jobs even the old jobs are disappearing in large numbers and no hope of the situation improving soon. Thus, the real fear is the burgeoning unemployed youth labour force has all the potential instead of being a dividend to be the curse as ‘youth bulge’ for India.
This frequently used term ‘youth bulge’ as it was warned as ‘youth crisis’ by the NIC is usually used to describe the phenomenon when a society hosts the excess in an especially young adult male unemployed population that leads to social unrest.
India not only has a large number of unemployed youth population but as per the 2011 census, India has 37 million more men than women and about 17 million extra men in an age group that commits most crimes. The rationale of a youth crisis is that a country with a large pool of dissatisfied male youths due to unemployment are likely to engage in group violence.
As India tragically fails to provide adequate jobs to its youth population, the country becomes highly susceptible to this youth-bulge-related civil strife.
The ‘Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project’ in its latest report shows India is only second to Nigeria in the world witnessing a significant increase in mob violence and political disorder during the COVID-19 crisis.
The situation is going to get worse as the pandemic refuses to go away and the economy slumps further. Likely, a large portion of India’s idle and angry youths might furthermore get attracted to spiteful strands of religious and cast based sectarianism, bringing more social and group unrest to the country and the region.
Ashok Swain is a Professor of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, Sweden.