Deepmala 45 – The Indian Demographic Advantage

All Nations ask a common question now-a-days. How many of our people are old? How many of our people are young? In other words, what is our demography? In fact, demography impacts the availability of talent. Today, one fifth of the American population is above the age of 60. In 25 years time this number will increase to a quarter of the population. Germany is worse off. A quarter of Germans are now old and in 25 years a third of them will be old. The case with Japan is very similar to that of Germany. China is better off with a tenth of its population now and a fifth of its population in 25 years being old.

All these countries will see a decline in their work force and talent. USA is already facing a shortage of skilled professionals. This will further accentuate. Over the next 10 to 15 years professional workforce shortage in the USA will peak to 1.5 crores. Europe will see a shortfall of 10 lakh professionals in information technology alone. Germany is already facing a shortfall of about 2 lakh engineers. China is estimated to need upwards of 14 lakh management graduates. Japan, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and New Zealand are forecasting large shortages of professional talent. This shortage will last at least till the middle of this century.

Given this global scenario, we in India must consider ourselves very lucky. Demography is kind to our country. India has a young population. Just 7% of Indians are above the age of 60. In 25 years time, only 12% will be above sixty. India will continue to be young and will see a swelling work force. India has a large pool of scientific, technical and professional talent. The educational and professional infrastructure built in the past has served her well so far. India’s professional has proven creativity, adaptability and a spirit of initiative. India’s professional resource base in the fields of information technology, biology and chemistry are international known. Our management talent, whether in the form of products from world-class management institutions in India or global managers of Indian origin, is deep. If we target the rapidly growing talent market, we can change India’s economic and social landscape dramatically. As a country, we have a unique opportunity.

However, it is disappointing that the professional talent in India is limited to an elite group of 55 lakh people only. They constitute about one per cent of the 40 crore workforce. This small fraction garners most of the benefits of economic progress. The rest of the participants in the economy remain on the margins. This picture must change. But besides this, we can also add a great value, if we improve the quality of our workforce.

Let us look at our 55 lakh professionals, who include doctors, lawyers, architects, nurses, chartered accountants and others with a wide range of diverse skills. It is not difficult at all to train just 10 lakh of them with the highest level of domain knowledge. They can be easily deployed to work for 2,000 hours per year earning 20 US dollars an hour, which is about half the average US salary. They will thereby generate a sustainable income of 200,000 crores per year!

In turn, income generation on this scale will have a far-reaching multiplier effect. It will generate demand for better houses, improved roads, higher quality of life, etc. All this can catalyze employment for several lakhs of people in other sectors. We can then comfortably look a large growth in economic output each year purely on the strength of our professional talent. This single strategic move of harnessing India’s professional resources will unleash a self-sustaining economic revolution.

India’s young people are an enormous reservoir of talent. All of us have to equip them, train them, and provide them opportunities. This casts a huge responsibility on policy makers, educational institutions and business leaders. Then only can we harness the advantage of this human capital in the future.