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More young voters would mean younger leadership

India will be in the prime of her youth by 2026. Some 1,295 million Indians will be under 65 years of age, leaving only 8 per cent of the population old.

india Updated: Jan 22, 2006 23:40 IST

India will be in the prime of her youth by 2026. Some 1,295 million Indians will be under 65 years of age, leaving only 8 per cent of the population old.

A demographic change of this magnitude would effectively imply a social restructuring, done by the young, for the young. By 2020, nearly half of the voting population will be under 25 years of age. More young voters in the cockpit would throw up not only younger leadership, but more importantly, offer fresh perspectives on policies. Thanks to all the young blood flowing in the country, it could be a New India by 2026.

This generation would be young (in their early thirties) and not just educated, but education conscious. Considering, 65 per cent of the population is literate, female literacy has improved to 54 per cent, and university graduates are expanding at 5.5 per cent annually, it is reasonable to believe that most students by 2026 will be educated and open to exploring newer career options.

Majority of these 10 million youngsters stepping into the workforce annually can hope to be gainfully employed, either in the burgeoning service sector or in the upcoming manufacturing sector.

They would work hard (close to 10 hours a day) and play harder. Being in a perpetual hurry, would make them more technology dependent.

Large-scale interstate and rural migration (by 2011, a third of the rural Indians will cease to be agriculture dependent) shall make, this population in creasingly urban, both, in terms of nature and lifestyle. The young India is likely to be more confident, cosmopolitan, open minded, informed, brand conscious and definitely more ambitious. By 2025 over half of India would be urban.

The rural incomes too would rise provided we go on improving infrastructure and recognize the primacy of farm-based industries.

An increasing urban population would only mean an increase of disposal income. With, 41 per cent of Indian women and 86 per cent men currently earning, the middle class would grow rapidly.

The NCAER estimates that the number of those earning over Rs 2 lakh and Rs 5 lakh per year would nearly treble and quadruple respectively by 2010, forcing an explosion of demands for goods and services.

This increasing affluence, more liberal lending, and the sustained construction boom in houses and apartments, would help an average Indian to buy a house sooner. At present, the average age of a new homeowner is 32, down from 45 a decade ago. The new generation shall be more health conscious especially in terms of reproductive health.

With half the couples already using contraception in one form or another, the number of unintended births has decreased and by 2025, an average Indian woman can be expected to have 2 children. Improvement in health care is also seen in declining infant mortality rates and increasing life expectancy.

While it takes hardly a glance to see the promising opportunities at hand, it takes a critical study to understand the challenges accompanying this demographic restructuring.

It is obvious that India's opportunity hinges on its ability to understand the daunting challenge of balancing quantity with quality. We need targeted policies to address the issues of drinking water, sanitation, health care, education, availability of food and jobs.

Are we ready to harness the real potential of this young and vibrant population?

MILES TO GO

* India spends 0.99% of its GDP on health; US 14%

* India spends 3.1% of its GDP on education; Malaysia 7.1%

* India's domestic savings (%of GDP) is 23.8%; Malaysia 45.3%

* India's investment (% of GDP) is 21.9%; China 38.3%