Source | LinkedIn | Ravi Venkatesan | Unicef Special Representative for Young People
“Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine,” Alan Turing
- Throughout history, young people have led change in every field. Yet, we consistently underestimate their ability
- The real challenge before us is to tap into the drive and the talent of this young generation to create the largest army of change makers, leaders and problem solvers
Although the data is murky and it is politically difficult to admit, India has a massive and growing challenge educating and creating decent work for her youth.
374M Indians are between 10-24 years old and they constitute a fifth of the world’s young people. They represent extraordinary talent and ambition but face equally extraordinary challenges. The facts are grim. Half of them drop out before class 10.. Nearly a million turn 18 every month & start looking for employment. However jobs are scarce because employment growth (0.8%) is half of population growth. Unemployment is much higher amongst youth 15-29 (16%) than those over 30 (1.5%) Only half the working-age population is working or seeking employment; this number is much lower for women (27%). Paradoxically, a higher-educated Indian youth is six times (35 per cent) as likely to be unemployed as an uneducated one which is an indication of both the quality of jobs and the quality of the educational degrees.
This massive pool of talent -our “demographic dividend” -is our biggest resource and but creating good outlets for their capability and aspirations is one of our biggest challenges. Says author Snigdha Poonam “This is the most desperate generation of Indians since independence; 86% of them feel anxious about their future–but its also the one most bent on world domination. …they will redefine work, success, morality and change our world in ways we can’t yet imagine”.
India is by no means unique in this; many countries face similar challenges except that our numbers are staggering. Soberingly, the headwinds will get worse as economic growth slows globally and automation and AI relentlessly drive productivity increases putting more and more pressure on formal-sector jobs.
None of this is new. But the problem grows while we fret because we persist with tired approaches that aren’t working and will not work. Einstein reportedly said that “our problems cannot be solved by the same thinking that created them.” This is particularly true for wicked problems of this sort. What we need is a completely new paradigm for youth and the future of work. What might such a paradigm look like?