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India not immune from problems involving its youth

Pakistan is in trouble, but India too is not immune from problems involving its youth.

editorials Updated: Aug 10, 2015 02:37 IST
Millions-of-educated-young-Indians-join-the-labour-market-every-year-but-rising-mismatch-between-basic-skills-and-jobs-on-offer-is-leading-to-a-peculiar-flux
Millions-of-educated-young-Indians-join-the-labour-market-every-year-but-rising-mismatch-between-basic-skills-and-jobs-on-offer-is-leading-to-a-peculiar-flux

Point scoring over Pakistan is a regular feature of India’s public conversations.

Our commentators on television often remind Pakistani counterparts about the different trajectories that both countries are currently on.

The claim is that India is committed to the modernisation agenda, focusing on newer frontiers of technology and economic growth, while Pakistani leaders allegedly maintain ambivalent attitudes towards terrorism. We point out that that is the price of pursuing flawed goals and the case of the captured terrorist Mohammad Naveed, who was brainwashed at a young age to murder Indians without remorse, amply proves the point.

Naveed is arguably the product of a process where the under-privileged meet State failure and extremist opportunism. Such an encounter can manifest itself in various forms of unrest, which India, for all its optimism also needs to worry about, given how our own youth are grasping for good education and meaningful professional opportunities.

The numbers alone give one a sense of the anger building up.

Sixty-five per cent of the population is under 35, around 550 million of India’s 1.2 billion are under the age of 25, around 12 million, i.e. a number equivalent to the population of Tokyo, enter the job market every month. The economic reforms agenda is still a work in progress, with the anticipated job creation not materialising as soon as had been hoped.

Our youth strive under several limiting conditions. Their educational pursuits are not properly aligned with the needs of industry; indeed many attain degrees that often have no correlation with the emerging character of the service economy. And thanks to the state of our public institutions, our skills deficit is the stuff of legend.

In fact, a recent study that surveyed 30,000 engineers in 500 colleges said that 67% of engineers graduating from Indian colleges do not have spoken English skills required for any job in the knowledge economy while 97% of engineers are not fit for high-end jobs in corporate sales and business consulting.

Add to all of this the state of our public services, particularly in access to health and sanitation, and we have a sense of the ticking-bomb scenario very much brewing in our backyard. Taken together, we are doing better than our smaller neighbours, a useful fact for the ephemeral form of television combat but cold comfort to concerned citizens and policymakers.