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What Lies Ahead for the Indian Youth

India has the world’s highest youth population. According to 2011 Census, 62.5% of its 1.2 billion people are in the working population age of 15-59. On the other hand, Japan is the world’s oldest nation, with 25% of its population is above 65 years of age and by the year 2040, this is going to rise to 36%. In contrast, the proportion of dependents in India is going to witness a fall in the next two decades (often called demographic dividend), and this implies that the young population would be actively engaged in employment. This also implies a growing pool of buyers for goods and services who would engage in conspicuous consumption. During his visit to New York in 2014, Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi had proclaimed that India is blessed with “Democracy, Demographic Dividend and Demand”.

But one must not forget that the demographic dividend won’t last forever and in order to reap demographic dividend, India would need to scale up the skills and industries. A report by World Economic Forum (WEF) titled “The Future of Jobs” mentions the top 10 skills that would be required in 2020. These are: complex problem solving; critical thinking; creativity; people management; coordinating with others; emotional intelligence; judgement and decision making; service orientation; negotiation and cognitive flexibility.

These skills would become necessary to work in the milieu of so called the fourth industrial revolution. The first three industrial revolutions pertained to usage of steam, usage of electricity and usage of electronics and IT.  In essence, the fourth industrial revolution is a digital revolution. According to WEF report, this incorporates usage of robotics, self-driven vehicles, advanced materials, biotechnology and genomics. Yes, the boffins at WEF might have consulted all the screenplays of Steven Spielberg!

In 2015, Indian government launched Skill India campaign, which aims to train the youth in various blue collar skills and enhance entrepreneurship by the year 2020. But India experiences huge skills gap. According to the survey of Labour Bureau, only around 7% of persons aged 15 year and above received vocational training. In order to encourage entrepreneurship in India, the policymakers initiated the National Policy on Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015. They hope to enhance skills in three main areas, viz. soft skills, entrepreneurship, and digital literacy.

India’s Indian Information Technology (IT) service sector employs 4 million people, but the sector is experiencing slowdown in employment. According to The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), a trade association of IT and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry, 150 thousand new positions were created in the IT sector in 2016, compared to 230 thousand positions in 2013. The same association predicts that field such as data analytics and connected devices will account for at least 38 per cent of Indian IT industry revenues by 2025.

At the time of this writing, I have been watching Live Stream of annual meeting of Berkshire Hathaway and its CEO Warren Buffet (one of the richest person and investor) has many investments. Among these, he owns a railroad company and an insurance company in USA. He mentioned in Q&A session that technologies like self-driving cars would make insurance industry redundant and artificial intelligence (AI) would disrupt the current economic system as there would be an adjustment in the economy that needs fewer human workers.

India as a growing economy and it is betting on IT industry as its future engine of growth, it cannot remain immune to these change. Indian youth needs to sharpen the skills and be ready to face the rapid future economic and technological disruptions.