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New Delhi: India’s young demography will not remain young by 2036 and the proportion of people below the age of 24 will fall to 34.7% by 2036 from over 50% in 2011, data scanning of a recent official population projection report shows.

And the median age of Indians will jump 10 years to almost 35 by 2036, with some 13 large and industrialized states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh expected to have even a higher median age of its people than the national average.

Data from the population projection report by a technical committee under the health ministry shows that while the median age of Tamil Nadu will be 40.5 years, it will be 39.6 both in Kerala and Maharashtra, 39.5 in Himachal Pradesh, 38.9 in Punjab and 38.8 in West Bengal.

“It is evident that, 50.1% of the population in the country, was aged 24 years and below in 2011, constituting 30.8 percent and 19.3 percent in the ages 0-14 years and 15-24 years respectively. The combined proportion of these two age-groups is expected to fall from 50.1 percent in 2011 to 34.7 percent in 2036. The average age of Indians is expected to be of 34.7 years in 2036 as compared to 24.9 years in 2011," a section in the report underlines.

Data from the population projection report shows that the number of older persons in the population is expected to increase and their share in the total population shall jump to 15% in 2036 from 8.4% in 2011.

Economists and experts believe India has a limited window to harness its human capital and absorb it in the workforce, and argue that the projected ageing of the population will have several consequences—the demographic loss, the low productivity in the labour market, an increasing share of dependence in socio-economic life, and need for a wider social security coverage among other things.

“We must cease the opportunity in this limited window. For that we have to categorize the young Indians into three buckets—those who are in education, those who are either employed and unemployed and, third, those who are neither pursuing education nor looking for employment. I believe we will have sizable portion of youth in the third bracket who will need to be gainfully employed in jobs or businesses," said Anoop Satpathy, a labour economist and faculty at V.V. Giri National Labour Institute.

“While improving quality of education and skilling is one part, transition from schools to workspace need be faster. Now it takes longer. For that we have to create opportunities in new growth areas. Government is looking at electronics and mobile manufacturing, its growth area, similarly deep technology, solar, core manufacturing can help the people and the economy. An ageing population will have an impact on labour productivity. But, we are not like some of the developed nations and the impact will be gradual. Here you need a wider and robust social security net," Satpathy said.

Arup Mitra, a professor of economics at Delhi University, said very soon the so called demographic dividend possibility will get dissipated. "To cease the last bite of the possible benefit, a great deal will have to be done for skill formation, plus we have the problems of labour absorption at the advent of the fourth industrial revolution," said Mitra. “The pandemic has created additional problems of livelihood loss. In such a situation, upgradation of skill, on-the-job training are essential along with massive investment in all the three key sectors —agriculture, manufacturing and services," he said.

“There are innumerable low-income households. Health interventions can improve productivity, which in turn can contribute to better income. On the whole, the last chance to grab the benefit of demographic dividend can be realized through both demand- and supply-side factors , raising the scale of activities and enhancing the quality of labour substantially," added Mitra.

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