By Kamala Kanta th
Nowadays various references have been drawn on ‘Young India’ or ‘demographic dividend or bonus’ and the ‘window of opportunity’ for the Indian population. As revealed in 2011 census, 60% Indian population belongs to working age group (15-59 year). The bifurcated figure shows 28% are of early mid (15-29 year) age group and 20% are of middle (30-45 year) age group and rest are of late mid (45-59 year) age group. Combining the early mid age group share with 31% child population the young population constitute 59% in 2011. This, in fact, is a huge share and therefore it is a much talked issue throughout.
However, from demographic bonus point of view, the 60% working population is critical. Lee (2012) had mentioned that the demographic dividend phase (while population is continuing with higher share of working population), a mid stage of demographic transition can last for many decades, and the rate of increase in the support ratio during this period opens an window of opportunity. Pool and Wong (2005) while alysing the age structure had mentioned that the age structure has economic, sociological, anthropological and demographic implications, at both the micro and macro level. It also has an impact on sustaible social and economic development. This fact has been established by various scholars throughout the world.
Thakur (2012) had mentioned that the benefits of having demographic dividend and lesser dependents works through many mechanisms: having a bigger labour force — a larger share of people who are productive and able to contribute positively to the economy can be beneficial for economic growth (Bloom, et. al., 2003); a greater female emancipation — lower fertility rates and longer lives create conditions for greater female empowerment as they find more time to break away from their traditiol roles within the household and seek to join labour force (Mcy, 2005; Sen, 2000), increase labour force participation rate of women increases labour supply, and empowered women are more likely to educate, spend resources on their child health, which contributes to building human capital (Dreze, et.al., 1996); an increase in savings rate — follows Life Cycle Hypothesis; [According to Life Cycle Hypothesis, a person saves more when they are in their reproductive years for their retirement.] brings a change in human behaviour — while it is difficult to fully measure this impact, having longer lives, lesser children and a better quality of life changes people’s attitudes and values in life. People begin to value education and health more, spend more on lesser number of children and can make long term plans, which they could not do earlier (Bloom, et. al., 2002).
On the other hand, unemployable youths (having no technical skills or proper education) will not give a fillip to the development of a society, rather they will put more burden on the society by creating social instabilities and insecurities and putting more economic burden on their parents. Social scientists believe that their behaviour and activities at large can impact the society badly. Due to their non-engagement in regular economic activity they have more free time and it may influence the workers to destroy their work culture. For survival also some may leave for petty theft, robbery, murder, rape, molestation, insurgency, etc. which will create instability to the society. Therefore, quality of demographic dividend is an issue which requires detailed examition.
About 60% working population establishes that the population in India is undergoing demographic dividend. The United tions estimates and projections shows the dividend phase of Chi is just about over; that of Costa Rica may have another decade or two; India somewhat more than that; and that Nigeria’s dividend phase is projected to last through 2100 (Lee, 2012). In Assam also, the demographic dividend is experienced with 60% working population and 61% literate persons (with 72% literacy rate) in 2011. Out of this 61% literate persons only 3.4% are having ‘technical diploma or certificate not equal to degree’ and ‘graduate & above’ qualifications (will be called better educated) and 5.5% better educated among the literates in 2011.
The scheduled tribes (ST) population constitute an important part in Assam, which has 12% share of the total population with 38.8 lakh population in 2011 (which was only 11.6 lakh in 1961). As per 2011 census Assam is presently having 15 STs living in the autonomous districts of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills and 14 STs living in the state including the Bodoland Territorial Area District and excluding the autonomous districts of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills. Major (having more than 10,000 populations) STs in 2011 are — Boro–Borokachari, Miri, Karbi, Rabha, Kachari including Sonwal, Lalung, Garo, Dimasha (Kachari), Deuri, Hajong, any Kuki tribes, any ga tribes, Dimasa, Khasi & Jaintia and Hmar and these constitute 95% of total ST population in the state.
The ST population is ‘child rich’ with 32% population in 0-14 year age in 2011. The child population is declining (13% decline during 1961-2011) and decline has been more during last decade (5% in 2001-2011). The working age population is 62% (increased 11% during 1961-2011), out of which about 50% are young adults (age 15-29 year, who have not yet completed education or entering in job market) in 2011. Working population ratio (WPR) among them is 44% in 2011. This is biased towards rural and male as compare to their respective counterparts. This may be because of definition of workers followed in census, wherein in rural areas most people used to perform some work or other daily which may or may not be economically significant. Urbanization among the population is only 6% in 2011 and this is lower than the state level urbanization rate (14%) and all India urbanization rate separately for scheduled tribes (10%) and all population (31%) in 2011.
Among the STs in Assam, 62% were literate in 2011. And among the literates, 26% were having ‘no formal education and education below primary level’ and 71% were having ‘school education only (up to higher secondary level)’ in 2011. The rest 3.2% were only the better educated persons among the literates. The literacy level improved during 2001-2011 as it was 32% for the first category and 66% in the second category in 2001. The literacy level and better educated persons in individual tribes are shown below in Table-1. The STs are showing dismal picture in terms of better education. Among the major STs, only four tribes have better educated persons more than 5% of total literates in 2011. Although for some tribes like any Kuki tribes, any ga tribes, Mech, Rabha and Dimasa — the literate persons are more in numbers, the better educated persons are less than even 5%. This shows that overall the literacy is being achieved (to some extent), however level of education is still very poor across all tribes in Assam.
*better educated out of literate
Source: calculated from census 2011 data
The government has number of schemes targeting the ST population, some of them are — Eklavya Model Residential Schools, Scheme of Ashram Schools, Scheme of Coaching for SC/ST/ OBC, Scheme of Hostels for SC/ ST/ OBC Students, Scheme of Pre/Post Matric Scholarship for SC/ ST/ OBC Students, Scheme of Pre-Matric Scholarship to Children of those Engaged in Unclean Occupations, Book Bank Scheme , Research and Training for Tribal Development in Assam, Assistance for Research work- Ph.D./Post-Doctoral, etc. Above all, the government has other schemes for development of infrastructure, research and training for development of the people including ST and reservation of seats in educatiol institutes as per provisions contained in the Constitution of India. Question arises -are these incentives really improving this backward section of the society, is 60% working population have the employability, are the youths provided skill, technical and better education? Unless there is improvement in skill & better education and creation of employment avenues the youths and formidable number of working population will not converted to demographic dividend. The call of the hour is to prepare focussed policies targeting this young/ working population. Also policy interventions are required to create more and more employment avenues to convert this asset to economic benefits. However, among the ST in Assam Hmar, Deori, Kachari (Sonowal) and Miri are having more better educated persons than others.
[The writer is Director to Government of India, tiol Sample Service Office (FOD), North East Zone, Guwahati]