New Delhi: More than three out of five Indians are between 15 and 64—a bracket that puts them in the “working age group”. By 2026, that number is expected to rise, from 62% to 68%.
If the hunger for talent continues, these results of the Economic Survey will come as good long-term news to employers. But in order for the “demographic dividend”—as the survey terms it—to be harnessed, the government’s plans to provide education, health care, skills development, among other social expenditures, must really materialize. And that, observers of government spending patterns say, remains the greatest challenge for social services.
Several blame bureaucratic red tape and corruption for slow progress of many government-led schemes. Yet others, such as Yash Pal, chancellor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, say India is just not spending enough on human development. “We are not spending enough by a large margin. In education, we spend about 3% of GDP. I will be very happy if the FM announces 19%” on Friday, he added.
India’s social services expenditure has increased from 11% in 2001-02 to 16.6% in 2007-08. As a proportion of total expenditure, it has risen from 22.3% to 22.5% this year. But in the midst of the economic boom, people are still going hungry and a majority of those living on the fringes of poverty spend 70% of their budget on food, with little left for education and health.
Last year, four new social programmes were launched by the UPA government to alleviate poverty. Six other projects banded under Bharat Nirman that oversees creation of rural infrastructure for 70% of the population, have seen their budgetary outlay go up from Rs18,696 crore to Rs24,603 crore in 2007-08.
Worries persist over larger problems of accountability and inefficient implementation of projects. Says Amitabh Behar, one of the campaigners of Wada Na Todo (don’t break promises), a movement that urges the government to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals, which seek to eradicate poverty and lift human development: “There’s an enormous gap between political rhetoric and actual delivery. You end up not being able to translate it into a serious act at the local level due to either governance deficit and lack of right political will.”
Fix Risks, Reap Gains
By 2026, 68% of India’s population will be between the ages of 15 and 64. However, before the country harnesses what will perhaps be the world’s largest workforce, it will have to address gaps in education, health care and skills
India’s social expenditure was 16.6% in fiscal 2008, up from 11% in 2001-02. Spending on the Bharat Nirman scheme in 2007-08 was nearly 32% that in FY07