President Pranab Mukherjee today warned that India’s demographic dividend may become “demographic liability” in the absence of adequate skill development. “We have rich demographic dividend. But this is a challenge also…. to provide jobs for them. I am scared that demographic dividend may be converted into demographic liability unless we think about it. Leaders and administrators will have to think how to tackle it,” he said addressing the annual convocation of the Indian Institute of Science here.
Mukherjee said he wholeheartedly supports the government’s initiative of ‘Skill India’ by which 500 million people will get skill training by 2030. It is important to achieve this target, he said. The president said by 2020 the average age of people in the US will be 46 years, that in Europe 42 years, 48 years in Japan and just 27 in India. “So we have the opportunity to capture the job market,” he said.
Mukherjee said there was no point in complaining about IT talent related protectionism by some countries and India has to prepare itself to face such challenges in the future. Stressing on the importance of basic research and innovation, he said unless the required investments were made in these areas, the country cannot make further progress. He noted India occupied an important place in the sector and had some advantages initially because of the skills of its IT professionals.
“Therefore there is no point of saying that certain countries are changing their policies about the immigration, movement of the skilled personnel from one country to another and we are now losing jobs which were exclusively enjoyed by us in the initial years. “We shall have to be ready for these types of challenges coming in the future not from one or two countries but from all across the world. Therefore we require excellent teachers, bright students and conducive atmosphere which are most important in the academic life,” he added. His comments assume significance in view of the curbs imposed by the United States on grant of H1B visas.
Pointing out that this was his last visit to a central institute as the 13th President before demitting office later this month, Mukherjee said, he is “deeply satisfied” with the IISc as its ‘Visitor’. “I am concluding with an institution which has made India proud,” he said, noting IISc was the best university in the country and among the best in the world.
Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala and Chief Minister Siddaramaiah were among others present at the event. Noting that research and innovation are the most fundamental things, Mukherjee said, “I am sorry that not only in our academies, but also in our industries we have neglected them for too long.” He said, “Unless we make investment in basic research and innovation, I’m sorry we cannot make any further progress, to see the type of India which we would like to see.”
Addressing the graduating students, the President said “unfortunately” those opting for fundamental research are less and “we have to change this picture and see to that Indian bright minds dedicate themselves towards it.” “Your demand in the market could be much more…you may lead a very comfortable life abroad, you may earn huge amount of money, but equally make the country happy,” he said.
Mukherjee also noted that after C V Raman several products (alumni) of Indian universities received the Nobel Prize, but they were recognised while working abroad. He said creating a conducive atmosphere and retaining such talents in domestic institutes of higher learning were major challenges that planners, leaders and administrators will have to address.
Noting that the country had the opportunity to capture the world job market because of its demographic dividend (large young population), he, however cautioned that this could become a liability if they were not provided proper inputs that include skill and employment.
Skill development initiative should be expedited and implemented with all earnestness. Universities must have good quality laboratories and libraries, he said while advocating regular updating of knowledge and equipment there in order to compete in today’s fast changing world.