Youth are the most important and dynamic segment of the population in any country.  It is believed that developing countries with large youth population could see tremendous growth, provided they invest in young people’s education, health and protect and guarantee their rights. It is no doubt to say that today’s young are tomorrow’s innovators, creators, builders and leaders. But they need the required support in terms of good health and opportunities skills to transform the future. The economic trigger happens when a county’s more hands to work available than more mouths to feed. To put it succinctly, working age population has to be larger than the dependent population.

International Youth Day is celebrated to recognize efforts of the world’s youth in enhancing global society. It aims to promote various ways to engage them in becoming more actively involved in making positive contributions. It is also a platform to acknowledge the role of young women and men as essential partners in change, as well as an opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges and hardships world’s youth facing. The aim of the article is to understand importance of the youth, approaches to address some of the challenges and provide a broad overview of India’s efforts in youth empowerment towards building a vibrant and robust social, economic and governance system.  

A developing country like India has huge opportunities and challenges with the globalization and rising of knowledge economy. United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) State of the World’s Population report says that India has world’s largest youth population with 356 million 10-24 year-old, whopping 28 percent of the total population. The youth potential not only to meet its own manpower needs but it can also cater to the manpower demand of other nations. India is set to experience a dynamic transformation as the population explosion of the past turns into a demographic dividend. India has to reap the demographic dividend. However, the benefits are subject to addressing the social and spatial inequalities.

One of the biggest problems today youth faces is the unequal access to opportunity and the lack of emphasis on education. In order for economic growth to occur the younger population must have access to quality education, adequate nutrition and health. Therefore, economic growth opportunities through youth development are galore if tapped and nurtured appropriately. Indian youth is facing acute pressure from getting a job to performance at the workplace. The need of the hour is to create a productive workforce that can make a significant contribution to India’s economic development. One of the ways building such workforce is to provide enough opportunities for education, skill development and the spirit of entrepreneurship.

One of the sustained ways of addressing poverty is youth skill development. It goes a long way as skills can be used to earn livelihood, assist others and even invest for future use. Skills can be equated with long lasting empowerment. A significant step is to reduce the rural and urban gap, especially in educational infrastructure and attitudes to education. Catching and training them young is a priority. It could be extremely precarious to leave out youth without proper skill set and training. Alienation from employability and job opportunities could invite youth towards crime and create anti-social elements. Therefore, it is critical to build formal institutional mechanisms to address skill development programs. Technical education should aim at raising skilled workforce that is employer ready.

A spirit of entrepreneurship has to be inculcated right from the school to create more job providers than job seekers for a vibrant economy. It helps youth engaged in innovation, production, distribution, consumption, regeneration, and etc. Systemic linkages have to be established to link education with training, placement and real life scenario to survive and sustain in the competitive world.

Youth are powerful. They represent courage with wisdom and energy with will power to take leadership. The energy and wisdom has to respected, guided and nurtured for future roles. Youths needs to be in leadership role. Youth can be antidote to bad governance and corruption. They have power to change. Education programs should aim to teach and young minds right from the school level the importance of choosing right people who would take charge of governance. Conventionally, youth have been asked to keep away from politics. Youth should be motivated to consider politics as a means to serve the nation. They should be oriented on anti-corruption drives with focus on prevention, education, and strategies for fighting corruption. Good governance is realistic with youth empowerment.

New economy brings fresh challenges along with the spurt of economic development. Therefore to create better work life balance and take up future challenges youth has to be equipped with information on health, nutrition and preventive care. Concerted and outreach programs have to be taken up right from school age. A segment of disengaged youth could be a serious concern for the growing vibrant economy. 

In India, some of the steps in empowering youth are in the right direction. The Government of India has set a stiff target to impart the necessary skills to 500 million people by 2022. The biggest challenge for poor skill levels is largely attributed to, huge high school dropout rates, negative perception toward skilling and dearth of a formal vocational education framework that address industry ready skills. However, the setting up of National Skill Development Agency (NSDA) and National Skill Development Council (NSDC) should boost efforts towards building robust skilled youth population.  

It is heartening to note that the National Youth Policy 2014 provides a holistic vision for the youth of India, “to empower the youth of the country to achieve their full potential, and through them enable India to find its rightful place in the community of nations”. It has following five broad objectives with the action roadmap to put India among top nations, 1) creating productive workforce, 2) develop strong and healthy generation, 3) instill social values for national development, 4)participation in civic engagement, and 5) address youth at risk.

In the past youth have been harbingers of change – be it leading social revolutions, winning independence or questioning the status quo for their rights, and now they have demonstrated ground breaking technological innovations, provided out of box solutions, and set up start-ups that have toppled up hegemonies. Therefore, supporting and promoting the development of India’s youth must be one of the foremost priorities.

Public funds are insufficient to cover the amount of efforts required and it’s the right time for non-government organizations, corporates and philanthropists contribute towards the grander efforts in making youth engaged, employable and inclusive in creating balanced economy. Companies Act 2013 is a wonderful opportunity for corporates to undertake various initiatives to promote youth empowerment. One of the Schedule VII items specifically mentions that the companies can take up activities to promote education and employment enhancing vocation skills and livelihood enhancement projects. Celebrating International Youth Day will instill confidence among the youth of the times that their empowerment will go a long way in achieving national dreams.


About the author

Nirbhay is associated with Corporate Social Responsibility.  

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