Thursday, January 20, 2011


Demographic window in India is half-shut!

There are two popular schools of thought, when it comes to population explosion! One argument is how population growth has been putting unprecedented pressures on natural resources and also on per capita productivity! The other is how population growth can create markets, huge pool of human capital and thus boost productivity. Based on such arguments, the most populous country of the world - China – came out with a one-child policy to contain its population explosion! But this has led to a bigger monster and that is with respect to its skewed dependency ratio (the ratio of non-productive elderly population to productive population) wherein a relatively small working population is all set to support a huge elderly non-working population. However, in India, with the fertility rate being good and with India having no such one-child policy, so far, the dependency ratio has worked out to be quite balanced. But then, in our country, we face another crisis and that is with respect to the dichotomy that exists between population size and population composition.

Calculations based on future population estimates reveal that the dependency ratio will be 0.50 in 2030 for China and 0.48 for India. But then, this calculation does not take into consideration the so-called composition of productive population. It goes without even an iota of conventional doubt that the participation of women (who constitute 48.26 per cent of total population) in the workforce is very low. As per ILO estimates, the participation of women above the age of 15 in the labour force is around 35 per cent. Participation of women in the workforce is only 13.9 per cent in the urban sector and 29.9 per cent in the rural sector. Women contribute a mere 23 per cent to India’s GDP. No doubt, their contribution is much higher but then it adds no value to the conventional GDP calculations. Since, Indian women are more confined to traditional work, their labour and work goes unpaid and mostly unrecognised! Even today their participation in organised sector is very limited and their concentration towards the un-organised sector is relatively more. Th is is evident from the fact that even today women occupy only 9 per cent of parliamentary seats, 4 per cent seats in High Courts and Supreme Court and 3 per cent in administration.

Moving further, Indian women earn relatively much lesser than their men counterparts for the same work. They earn 75 per cent of men’s earning and contribute merely 25 per cent of the family income. The World Economic Forum ranked India among the bottom 10 countries in the world in its list of “women’s participation in the economy” and further revealed that the average annual income of women in India is, on an average, $1,185, in contrast to $3,698 for the men in India’s corporate sector. And women shockingly hold less than 10 per cent of all senior management positions in corporate world in India. As per researches, women in rural areas get half the amount compared to men for similar work and their financial inclusion is almost negligible! All forecasting would fall flat and the window of opportunity of demographic dividend would be half shut, if this huge population is ignored. Merely providing reservations in parliament and tax rebates won’t do any good. What is required is a grassroot level initiative to encourage women in the workforce and to make their unorganized work more organized, along with eliminating wage discrimination... and this can be done through legislations.


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