NEW DELHI: For long Indian population was considered a curse to the nation. But no longer. Experts say that the Indian population which is supposed to overtake China very soon, is asset rather than a liability. Government is stepping towards thinking India’s population to be used to illustrate the country’s huge potential, both economic and political, experts say. With just 2. 4 percent of the global landmass housing 16 percent of the global population, successive Indian governments have been faced with the problem of how to reduce ever-increasing pressure on ever-dwindling resources.
Now its massive workforce is being seen as the country’s greatest resource. “This change has been aided by the revolution in India? s information technology sector,” says demographer A. R. Nanda, who helped formulate the National Population Policy five years ago. “The corporates and some economists have been highlighting how India’s working population can make up for deficient or sometimes expensive labor elsewhere for the past five to seven years.
This has fuelled the rethink,” he says. India has in the past decade emerged as a major back office to the world with global firms outsourcing work ranging from credit card processing to air ticketing to take advantage of the country’s less expensive, educated, English-speaking workforce. India produces 2. 5 million IT, engineering and life sciences graduates a year, besides about 650,000 post graduates in science and IT related subjects.
The IT sector alone employs about 850,000 graduates and professionals while the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors are snapping up others. The government says 402 million Indians are aged between 15 and 59 – the working age – and that this number will grow to 820 million by 2020. N. R. Narayana Murthy, head of premier software export company Infosys, said that by 2020 the United States would be short of 17 million people of working age, China of 10 million, Japan of nine million and Russia of six million.
Demographer Nanda agrees more investment is needed, pointing to the example of China, which he says, ploughed resources into the health, education and social sectors between 1950 and 1980. “In terms of its impact on the general masses, the number of births came down in the 1970s before the one child norm was introduced,” Nanda says. “We should emulate China and invest in our social sector. ” GDP on social infrastructure – up from the 0. 9 percent at present,” says one health ministry officer. India will also need to improve the lot of the 20 or 30 percent of its population which is currently below the poverty line,” says Nanda. “This is vital if India wants to convert its huge population into a demographic bonus or demographic dividend. ” Despite government efforts to cut growth rates, India? s population that was 238 million in 1947 touched 1. 012 billion in March 2001 and is expected to be 1. 263 billion by 2016, according to India? s health ministry. Don’t Miss