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South Asia, India risk squandering demographic dividend: WB

Why is it in the news?

  • The World Bank cautioned that South Asia, including India, is failing to capitalize on its demographic dividend due to sluggish job creation compared to the expanding working-age population.
  • Despite this warning, the World Bank projected a robust growth of 0-6.1% for the region in 2024-25, as per its South Asia regional update, “Jobs for Resilience.”
·       This demographic dividend refers to the economic growth potential that can result from shifts in a population’s age structure, with a larger working-age population relative to dependents.

 

 Some of the key findings

Employment Growth Trends:

  • Despite a significant increase in the working-age population, job creation in South Asia has not kept pace. Specifically, India’s employment growth has been sluggish, falling short of the average growth in its working-age population between 2000 and 2023.
  • The employment ratio in India declined notably during this period, with the decline being second only to Nepal up until 2022. However, there’s some preliminary data suggesting a rebound in 2023, albeit partially reversing the decline.

Economic Growth and Contribution:

  • Despite the employment challenges, India’s economy is expected to maintain robust growth, forecasted at 7.5% in FY23/24.
  • This economic expansion, coupled with recoveries in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, has been a significant driver of the strong growth numbers for the South Asian region.

Potential Output Growth:

  • The World Bank’s analysis suggests that the region could achieve a 16% higher output growth if the share of its working-age population employed was comparable to other Emerging Market and Developing Economies (EMDEs).
  • This highlights the missed opportunity in fully capitalizing on the demographic dividend.

Recommendations to Encourage Employment Growth

  • Support the participation of women in the economy by addressing barriers to entry and providing opportunities for skill development and entrepreneurship.
  • Increase access to finance for businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs), to stimulate investment and job creation.
  • Enhance openness to trade to promote economic growth and diversification, facilitating the expansion of businesses and the creation of employment opportunities.
  • Ease financial sector regulations to encourage investment and entrepreneurship, fostering a more conducive environment for business growth and job creation.
  • Improve the quality of education to ensure that the workforce is equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to meet the demands of the labour market and drive productivity growth.

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