New Delhi, Feb 26 (IANS) In another seven years, India will overtake China with the youngest workforce in the 20-24 age bracket, positioning its demography as its strongest competitive advantage over developed nations, Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor said Tuesday.
Speaking at a CII-sponsored event, Tharoor said the youth is India's "key national resource" and their importance should be recognised.
"By 2020, India will have a 116 million strong workforce in the bracket of 20-24 years, while for China it will be just about 94 million at the same time. This could be the strongest competitive advantage India will have in the years to come.
"What is also striking is that within two decades, the average age in US will be 40, it will be 46 in Japan, 47 in Europe and almost 50 in China, but we will still be at 29," Tharoor said at the national conference on secondary education titled "Is Secondary Education on Track?' at the Indian Habitat Centre here.
He emphasized that the country should translate the demographic advantage to yield productive results.
"Our youth are obviously our key national resource It needs to be cherished, nurtured and developed with vision, determination and engagement. And to achieve all this we need to get our education right."
"At the time when our neighbours China, Japan are facing demographic squeeze we have 516 million individuals under 25 years of age, 225 million between the ages of 10-19, and today the average age is 28 years to China's 38; so we will have a more youthful, dynamic workforce, when the rest of the world is ageing," the minister added.
The former UN diplomat however cautioned that if the youth are not equipped with skills that 21st century offers, the results would be "horrendous" to contemplate.
"We all know mobs, Maoists and insurrections are full of frustrated unemployed young men who feel they have no stake in society."
Tharoor said that higher education holds the key to the country's bright future for creating a knowledge-based society.
Expressing worry at the high drop out rates at secondary education level, Tharoor noted that as the classes became senior, the drop out rates became greater.
The minister said the government expenditure for education increased in last nine years of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) from three per cent of GDP in 2002 to 4.8 percent currently.
"Our education system caters to about 600 million people, it is one of the highly capitalized sectors in India with an annual government spending of $30 billion, and an annual private spending of $43.2 billion."
He sought more Private-Public Partnership (PPP) in education.
Vijay Thadani, chairman CII national committee on school education, said that drop out rates at the secondary level can be tackled by introducing more vocational courses, partnerships and greater engagement with NGOs.