A generational shift is under way in India with half of its population under 24. The impact was felt last year when many among the 120 million first-time voters cast their ballots for a ‘change,’ and even the world media took notice.
As The Guardian noted ahead of the 16th general election: “First there are the sheer demographics: a third of the population is under 15, more than half under 24; every third person in an Indian city today is between 15 and 32; the median age in India is 27; around 150 million people are eligible to vote for the first time in the coming polls.”
It’s quite clear that the young generation is no longer prepared to accept their circumstances – and that alone is a major change. But as a report by the United Nations (UN) commented, if there is “vibrancy” among young people, there is great anger too.
The UN report, recognizing that a young person aged 10 in 2015 will have become an adult of 25 in 2030, says that a meaningful future agenda for young people is one that recognizes the protection of their human rights and empowerment to ensure their well-being and role as citizens.
The effect can be overwhelmingly positive, the UN believes, if young people are able to develop their capabilities, have access to education and health, including sexual and reproductive health, and find opportunities to fulfil the promise of their lives through, for example, decent employment.
Under all likely scenarios, the number of young people will continue rising before it crests in coming years. Countries that meet youth’s needs in this period are likely to be in a far better position by the second half of the century, with more educated and healthy populations, more productive workforces, growing economies and falling fertility rates.
Those that do not attend to youth may see higher fertility rates over time and sustain a high portion of young and dependent people. Demands for already over-stretched education and health services will continue to rise. A poorly skilled workforce will keep economies trapped in low-value activities and anaemic growth rates. Gender discrimination will make all of these issues even more intractable for young women and adolescent girls.
As The Guardian further noted: “Traditional values and customs have given way to a new uncertainty. Much is changing, and the process of transition is traumatic for millions. India’s youth could be a “demographic dividend”, ensuring stability and prosperity for decades to come – or a disaster, condemning the country to years of deep social tensions, drift and fear.”