Contrasting Viewpoints on Babies and Future – India and Japan!

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  • No need to reemphasize the fact that India is blessed with an extremely overwhelming demographics to spur our aspirational march towards realizing the dreams of counting amongst the best globally. Reams and reams have been written about the demographic dividends that many of the countries lack in comparison. What was once being ridiculed as a great burden vis-à-vis the overtly burgeoning population has undergone a metamorphosis. Now, the demographics are construed to lend credence to objectives of scale never seen before heights in terms of economic heft.

PC: Corporate Finance Institute

  • Yes, challenges do remain on several fronts greatly hindering the envisaged growth trajectory. Nonetheless, no disputing the efforts to keep striving to achieve the goal though. In stark contrast to India, Japan is facing a worrying situation where the death rate has for long outstripped the birth rate. No wonder, Elon Musk’s typically provocative as well as rude tweet predicting an existential threat for Japan has stirred the global community like never before. Of course, many in Japan weren’t amused but Musk has a point. Note that Japan’s population fell by over half a million in 2021 and its birth rate is among the lowest in the world.
  • Japan is a particularly sharp example of the low economic growth trajectory that countries with aging, falling populations are stuck with. Mind you, fewer citizens of the working-age depresses consumption overall and increases the social security burden on the available workforce. There is another peculiarity associated with Japan. Unlike the US and other developed countries like Canada, Germany, and Australia just to name a few have always been bolstered by immigrants, Japan has waffled. Irritatingly, a plan to let in half a million blue-collar workers by 2025 was severely affected by the rampaging pandemic.

PC: RANDALL G. HOLCOMBE

  • In contrast, India’s birth rates are falling too but are still amid a demographic boom that is swelling the numbers of young people in their teens i.e., the 20s and 30s. Let us look at the statistics available. The NFHS-5 survey reveals that the total fertility rate, or the average number of children born to each woman, has declined below replacement levels to 2.0 from 2.2 in 2015-16. Remember, the demographic implications of the latest TFR will be felt only down the line. Needless to mention therefore what India does from now on will determine what kind of society it turns out to be eventually.
  • The danger of policies failing to create jobs for today’s youth bulge will transform this cohort in a few decades into a demographic burden of millions of unskilled middle-aged and elderly citizens who couldn’t be fully productive during their prime. The cascading effect will fail the current generation to enter the middle class to hobble the prospects of their children by denying them quality education for matching the technological needs of the fourth industrial revolution. India’s falling TFR is a qualitative outcome of the quantitative increase in up to 12 years of schooling that most female children can now access.
  • To address the situation as well as arrest the free fall, reforms in education are critical more than ever before with economies poised for a great leap into the cutting-edge technology-driven modern revolution. A word of caution is not out of place here. Every day lost in inane Centre-state disputes, divisive rhetoric, and caste obsession is a lost opportunity for present and future generations.