Former President Pranab Mukherjee said the country's demographic dividend runs the risk of turning into a "demographic disaster" if employment is not generated, reported PTI. The country has achieved an economic growth of 6-8 per cent in the last couple of decades but the inequality among different classes of the society is still huge and unacceptable, he said. Speaking at the Dr M Visvesvaraya Memorial Lecture at the World Trade Centre here where industrialist Ratan Tata was conferred the WTCA Award of Honour, Mukherjee said the rapid economic growth has not reflected itself fully in corresponding rise in employment.
"There is rising inequality among the different classes of the society which cannot go on for a long period," he said. Citing the National Sample Survey Organisation, the former president said that top 10 per cent of the population owns 61.51 per cent of the assets while the bottom 50 per cent has a share of only 4.77 per cent of the assets. Further, the World Inequality Report of 2018 states that top 10 per cent of the population holds 54.2 per cent of the national share in income while the bottom 50 per cent has only 15.3 per cent.
"This gap is huge. It is evident from these figures that the trickle-down theory is no answer to the problem and has failed," the former finance minister said. Raising concerns over the rising unemployment, he said the country ran the risk of a demographic disaster. "In my opinion, a jobless growth is no growth for the Indian situation. A nation of more than 1.2 billion people and with a growing young population, enjoys a huge demographic advantage which has the potential to drive India's economic growth in the current century and beyond," he said.
Mukherjee further said that 63.5 million people in the age group of 20-35 years have entered the workforce in the last five years and it is estimated that by 2020 more than 50 per cent of the population would be below the age of 25 years. "Unless we generate jobs, the demographic dividend runs the risk of turning into a demographic disaster," he added. The former president also emphasised on the need for economic and social inclusion and said that education, skilling and employability will enable the eradication of disparity in the long run.
He said the immediate focus needed to be put on certain macro-economic and policy initiatives. Mukherjee also stressed the need for a massive investment in agriculture, irrigation, rural infrastructure and manufacturing sectors. "For employment to be generated at the desired scale, we will have to look beyond the agriculture and the services sector. India can have a vibrant manufacturing sector and contribute significantly to economic growth and employment generation," the Congress veteran said.
He said the "Make in India" programme has the potential to transform the country into a manufacturing power house. "Any boost in manufacturing will have to be based on facilitating investment, fostering innovation, enhancing employable skills and protecting intellectual property and building world class manufacturing infrastructure," he added.