Demographic dividendDemographic changes in the past three decades have created a glut of young people aged 10-24 in Nepal. The share of youngsters in the country’s total population stood at 32.8 percent in 2011.
Demographic changes in the past three decades have created a glut of young people aged 10-24 in Nepal. The share of youngsters in the country’s total population stood at 32.8 percent in 2011. Although the proportion of young people is expected to drop in the next 15 years, government estimates show that their share in total population will remain above 25 percent until 2031.
The creation of this big pool of youngsters is referred to as demographic dividend, as these energetic people can change the fate of the country by taking charge of a long overdue economic development process.
Demographic dividend generally results in rapid economic growth because of a decline in the country’s birth rate. Today, a Nepali woman gives birth to an average of 2.3 children as against 6.3 in 1976. With declining fertility rate, Nepal’s dependent population has started shrinking. This is freeing more people to work and contribute to economic development. This provides a window of opportunity for Nepal, which should be grasped without delay.
However, maximum benefit from this demographic dividend can only be reaped if appropriate policies are framed and adequate investments made. These policies and investments should help youngsters to hone their skills, shape their own future and turn them into assets.
Unfortunately, a majority of Nepali youth are growing up in poor rural areas and urban slums, according to a latest report of the United Nations Population Fund. In such environments, the youngsters do not get access to proper education and health care services. These young people also do not find jobs easily and cannot migrate to seek employment opportunities with ease as it is mostly beyond their reach.
Yet this group of people has “higher expectations for self-direction, freedom, and opportunity, as the information age has taught them about their human rights and given them a broader vision of what their lives could be,” says the report. It is the duty of every stakeholder in the nation to nurture their dreams and fulfil their aspirations.
For this, the country should have a robust and affordable education and health care systems, because better learning institutions and health care facilities help keep essential human resources well oiled, and impart the knowledge and skills required to survive in this ever-changing and competitive world.
If these measures are not taken on time, the big pool of youngsters will not be able to support themselves and thrive in the long run. And as they age, they will start becoming liabilities to the country, forming a big pool of uneducated, unskilled and unhealthy elderly people.
Caution should be taken now, as the fertility rate has started declining in Nepal, which could gradually lead to formation of an ageing society. This implies demographic dividend will take no time to transform into demographic disaster.