65 years and over: 5.6%
Life expectancy at birth: 67.1 years
Population in 2050: 1.69bn
There are about 240 million people between the ages of 15 and 24. The youth of the population should translate into a demographic dividend, calculated by the IMF's Asia Pacific Regional Economic Outlook for 2012 to be worth about two per cent on the annual rate of economic growth, provided it is coupled with the right economic policies.
Instead, the Indian economy has dipped, with growth slipping below the 8 per cent the country needs and running at between 6 and 7 per cent.
The population figures hide another problem; a quite startling gender imbalance. According to the 2011 census,
That is not an accident. Indian families want boys. Girls are expensive luxuries. The dowry has been illegal since 1961, but many parents accept that they are going to have to pay it anyway to marry off their daughters.
It used to be that unwanted baby girls suffered unfortunate accidents shortly after birth; now many do not even make it out of the womb.
Sex selection is illegal, but clinics that will scan the unborn foetus are everywhere. Sometimes they resort to a little subterfuge to avoid inviting censure, handing the parents a blue sweet as they leave to indicate a boy, a pink sweet for a girl, but the result is the same.
Some eight million female foetuses are believed to have been aborted in
Such a gender imbalance has a damaging effect on society, says
The Indian government has, perhaps inevitably, sought to see the positives. The 2012-2013 economic survey, prepared by
The report made clear that changes were needed if the promise was to be fulfilled. The country has too many poor quality jobs and not enough high-productivity manufacturing and service sector jobs.
More good jobs would pull the Indian economy into a virtuous cycle of growth with meaningful job creation. This 'would put purchasing power in more hands and increase demand into the bargain,' argues
'The first order issue is how we make industry more productive to create jobs. While gender inequality is an important issue in general, I don't think it is as material a concern in this context. We need to create jobs for both men and women irrespective of their proportion.'
Venture a few miles outside the cities and there is a huge rural underclass with little or no prospects. Claims that
It is true that
Indians often joke about the national mentality that everything will work out fine, but unless the country tackles its gender imbalance and the challenges of a population of under-employed young men, there are no guarantees that the story this time will have a happy ending.
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(c) 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc. "India: Where Girls are in Short Supply"