- [T]his country today is a place vastly different from what it was even ten years ago. It is now an overwhelmingly young country.
I've always wondered about such claims: mainly because an entire population doesn't change character so dramatically so fast. So what might have caused this change that that Ambani, and so many others, speak of? What might have turned this country "overwhelmingly young" where it wasn't so "even ten years ago"?
Answer: nothing. Mainly because it isn't true. From the figures, the conclusion is inescapable: the youth's share in the country's population, far from increasing, is actually decreasing. Take a look.
Let's assume that by "youth", we mean people under the age of 25. Over the last four censuses, these are the fractions of the Indian population that segment makes up:
Perhaps, then, we mean people under the age of 35? Well, for that segment, these are the numbers:
Still headed down. 15-25, then? Sliced that way, we see some increase:
And 15-35, the same:
So maybe Anil Ambani and others who say such things really mean the 15-25 or 15-35 age groups when they speak of an "increasingly young" country. But three points about even that claim.
One, we're talking about increases of about 2 (15-25) and 3 points (15-35) over 30 years; and just a tenth of a point (in both cases) over the last ten years. Is this reasonably described as turning India "overwhelmingly" young? Is a tenth of a point to be interpreted as "vastly different"?
Two, is it reasonable to use trends in less than a fifth (15-25) or about a third (15-35) of the population to characterize the whole population?
Three, the under-15 numbers are trending steadily downwards; which means that by the next census even the 15-25/15-35 numbers will begin heading downwards. Then even these weak claims of increasing youth will start fraying.
And finally, what these numbers mean is that the guys who are steadily increasing their share are the old fuddy-duddies like me. The numbers for the 35-60 age group:
Nothing unusual about this; believe me, we are not going around whacking youngsters with cricket bats. No, this is a simple consequence of declining birth rates over the last few decades. Like most other countries as they develop, India is best decribed as an aging country.
So move over, you young whippersnappers. Make way for the fuddy-duddies: this is increasingly, if not overwhelmingly, our country as well. And pass me my walking stick, wouldja?
Sources: 1971 and 1981, 1991, 2001 (for 2001, you'll need to download, unzip, open in Excel and do the arithmetic).