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Assuming a household head's age to be between 25 and 50 (before and after they would be dependent on someone), about half the households in 2025 would have a Liberalisation Child as its head. As they get the baton, or rather grab it, even the other 50 per cent would be dragged along. This will lead to a huge shift in consumer behaviour. For instance, the Liberalisation Children would have a totally different attitude to consumption vs saving, accessing credit vs living within your means, consumption priorities, and the difference between necessity and luxury. A similar shift will happen in business to business transactions as more and more companies get Liberalisation Children as CEOs. "There is a transition taking place from Nehruvian brahmins to Naiduvian banias, destiny-driven to destination-driven, inward- to outward-focused, government-employed to self-employed, stuck-in-my-station-in-life to upwardly mobile," says Bijapurkar.
This story is not about urban India alone. Already, the share of consumption expenditure of rural India on food items has decreased from 73 per cent 30 years ago to 59 per cent. Rural India has reduced its dependence on agriculture. A little less than half of rural gdp is from non-agricultural activities. This is creating a different kind of rural market. NCAER occupation data shows a decline in cultivators; there is enough evidence of dual sector households. With increased telephonic connectivity and the plan to build dependable round-the-year rural roads, rural India will join the mainstream sooner than later.
So, is India about to live up to its promise of a burgeoning middle class that lured MNCs and other investors in droves in the mid-1990s; a promise that is now little more than a joke? For that to fulfil itself, the policymakers will have to demonstrate rare vision in education and job creation.
Some concrete evidence has come to light to support what we've all known all along: there is something wrong with our education system. The government's taskforce on employment, headed by Planning Commission member S.P. Gupta, has found that nearly 60 per cent of the unemployed are educated, having done Class 10 or above, of which 80 per cent are in the 19-29 age bracket. "The young population is a treasure provided they get not only proper education but also jobs. We need much more vocational studies," says Gupta.
It won't be easy. The onus used to be on the government and the public sector. However, even as the new order of private enterprise has come up, there is little evidence of substantial job creation. On the contrary, cost cutting and workforce rationalisation are the order of the day. To compound matters, India has missed out on the manufacturing boom that enabled East Asia to have a vast section of the working population migrate from agriculture to industry.
Policymakers ought to realise that education and jobs are not optional but imperative. "A lack of job creation may find a manifestation in politics and stall reforms," warns Gokarn. Says Sunil Khilnani, professor of politics at the School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC: "If that vast population (ready to enter the working age population) is not given education and jobs, it can create a potentially volatile situation. We have seen that happening in the West Asia, where a similar demographic led to a politics of extremism." Ominous or promising? Take your pick.
All About The Zippies
APJ Abdul Kalam : '500 Million Young Will Transform India' ! Azim Premji: Writing Is On The Wall: Get The A,B,C Right ! Paromita Shastri : Tender Shoots ! Suveen K. Sinha : Age Of The Zippie ! Anil Thakraney: Moving To Gorakhpur With All Guns Blazing ! Manu Joseph: The Generation Why ! Velu Shankar: Teflon-Coated Bubble Wrap Cocoons ! Ajith Pillai: Dumbed Down? Who? ! Sanghamitra Chakraborty: The Next Stage Of Human Evolution ! Indrajit Hazra: 'Potential Genius'? Keep The Tag Intact ! Anil Ambani: "If You Dream, You Can Do It" ! Saumya Roy: Twixt Chawl And Mall Sanjoy Chatterjee: The World Is My Oyster ! Zippies: What They Want ! Javed and Farhan Akhtar: 'We All Have Our Struggles' ! Sadanand Menon: Mad Cow Disease Of Self-Consumption