Population and its productivity level will determine the quality of development for each nation over the next 100 years. The younger the population, the greater the chance of delivering a higher quality of life.
But having a young population is itself no guarantee that it will necessarily deliver higher productivity, and therefore contribute more than other countries, where the median age is higher.
Productivity of a population is a function of the quality of education, adherence to values, quality of health and opportunity for growth. So when the United Nations data reveals India as having one of the youngest work forces in the world, that should be good news for a nation moving rapidly towards progressing from a developing to a developed nation.
India’s median age in 2015 was 26.6 years. That is lower than more developed nations like Japan (46.5 years), Germany (46.2 years), USA (38 years) and China (37 years).
Within India, UP and Bihar have been recognized as the youngest states with a median age of 20, as per Census 2011. The median age splits the population into two equal halves, where a lower median age represents a higher number of young population as compared to the older group, and vice versa.
Population and per capita income comparison
However, both UP and Bihar rank low on development and population productivity, as compared to more developed states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, all of which have a higher median age, but also enjoy a higher per capita income than UP and Bihar.
According to Census 2011, the median age of Kerala in 2011 stood at 31 years, Tamil Nadu at 29 and Andhra Pradesh (present AP & Telangana combined) at 27.
By 2026, UP’s median age is expected to rise from 20 to 26.85 years, while Bihar’s would have risen from 20 to 29.05 years. Compare this with Kerala’s median age, which would have risen from 31 to 37.67 and Tamil Nadu’s from 29 to 37.29 years.
Clearly, both UP and Bihar would continue to hold the advantage of a younger population going into 2026 and beyond, so why is that not good news for either state?
India should worry, since over 65% of India’s population growth over the next 100 years is expected to come from UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, while the southern states, which presently enjoy higher per capita incomes, will contribute only 22% of the work force, despite having a higher per capita income.
So, why are UP and Bihar languishing on human and economic development index?
UP and Bihar – victims of state apathy
Politicians of both states will vehemently disagree that their respective states are languishing, but facts on all development parameters point to this, and therefore, both states need to first recognize the problem before attempting to resolve it.
In the beginning of this article, we recognized that population and productivity of that population will determine the quality of life for a nation, the same lies true for states.
UP and Bihar rank poor on health and health services parameters of its population as compared to the Southern states like Tamil Nadu, AP, Kerala and Karnataka. Both states rank lower on doctor-to-population ratio, hospital bed-to-population ratio, infant mortality rate, and number of medical colleges.
As per data released by the Registrar General & Census Commissioner for 2013, Bihar has a dismal record of 11,225 still births. Compare this with Kerala (2,778), Karnataka (5,708), Tamil Nadu (7,590).
On Infant deaths recorded in 2013, UP registered 18,760. Compare this with Kerala (3,873), Tamil Nadu (13,206) and Karnataka (15,221). Bihar has recorded 1,746 deaths, which is substantially better than the southern states.
This proves that with proactive measures taken by the state government and supported by its people, it is possible to improve existing conditions significantly.
Both UP & Bihar have a poor track record on quality of education provided at primary and secondary school level. The record does not improve at graduation or post-graduation level either. Both states also lack in technical education, on both quality and number of institutions.
Students from Bihar form the highest number of migrant students to other states. They go there to either prepare for all kinds of post-school common entrance exams or to pursue higher technical or medical education, since their home state lacks in quality education infrastructure, at all levels. Almost all southern states rank higher than UP and Bihar, and therefore attract students from these states.
Skilled work force
Here again, UP and Bihar rank poorly on account of inadequate number of quality vocational training institutes as compared to southern states. Bihar is also one of the top suppliers of unskilled migrant labour to other states, in the absence of employment opportunities there. UP too, follows Bihar on this parameter.
Tamil Nadu has been leading the way in adding manufacturing and technical-based employment opportunities amongst the southern states, along with Karnataka, AP, Telangana and Kerala. Both UP and Bihar have failed to attract major investments in industry and services sector, thus leading to both skilled and non-skilled workers migrating to other states in search of work.
An opportunity missed
As a result of all the factors mentioned above, UP and Bihar have failed to capitalize the advantage of a young population. Successive state governments in both states have completely failed to develop their youth for improving productivity and its consequent quality of life.
Both states will play a major role in India’s population growth in coming time and it is important for the centre to incentivize both these states, along with other laggard states such as Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, in improving all parameters that will ultimately influence the number and productivity level of its population.