India’s Population Explosion Is Human Capital Resource For Global Aging Society And Not A Concern – Analysis


Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s concern on India’s population explosion raises eyebrows among the global viewers. In his Independence speech on 15th August 2019 from the rampart of Red Fort, he said “Population explosion in India is a big problem for us and our future.” It’s to be wondered why India’s increase in population is considered a burden, while a major part of the developed nations plunged in aging society.  

Countries like Japan, UK, Germany, France, USA,  South Korea and even China with biggest population are sinking in ghettoization by aging people. To this end, surge in population in India is an human capital for these countries to overcome shortage of working population. Given the people mired in aging society in developed nations owing to low fertility rate and depopulation,  global working population is in danger.

According to a report by United Nation, by 2050, 36.4 percent of Japanese population will plunge in 65 years of age and above – earliest nation to be ghettoized by aging society. This will be followed by S. Korea with 35.3 percent of 65 years of age and above,   France with 26.7 percent, Germany with 30.7 percent, USA with 22.1 percent and China with 26.3 percent in 2050. 

Against this mass shift of people to old age group in the world’s developed nations , India’s high growth in population should be  a healthy and constructive hub to mitigate the human capital shortage, instead of concern. 

Modi’s concern on high growth in population indicates that it will bring social and religious disharmony in the country. This will decimate the growth and throws multiple challenges to cope with them. India’s population increased from 361 million in 1951 to 1.21 billion in 2011. India is expected to surpass China by 2024, according to United Nation. 

Given the wide disparity between the growth of Hindu and Muslim population in the country, a new challenge will crop up for balancing the eternal religious conflict between Hindu and Muslim people. In 1991-2001, against the average growth rate of 22.6 percent, the growth rate of Muslim was 36.1 percent. In 2011, Hindu population share declined from 84 percent in 1951 to 79.8 per cent and Muslim population share increased from 9 per cent to 14 per cent.  This brings an alarming paradigm in the growth of Indian demography in giving shape to a Hindu Rashtra

Nevertheless, given the global set back for working population owing to aging people, India’s population explosion should be read a bonanza, instead of paranoia. India can be the future hub for human capital to the developed nations, who are striving for working population. India has the biggest pool for middle age population ( nearly 730 million in the age group of 15-59) , who are eligible for working population. India’s fertility rate is highest with 2.4 children per women ,compared to 1.62 children per women in China.   

Japan is a case in point, where India’s population explosion can reap the benefits. According to Mr Jitsuro Tarashima, Chairman of Japan Research Institute “Japan is moving an aging society at a speed , which no other country has ever experienced or will in the near future”. In 2015, Japan’s population was 127 million, according to Mr. Jitsuro. Today 28 percent of the Japanese population is  above 65 years of age. By 2050, it will touch 36.4 percent or nearly 37 million people above 65 years of age, according to Mr Jitsuro. 

Japan’s fertility rate is lowest in the world. It was 1.42 (average number of children to be born to an woman), compared to USA with 1.80.    

Assuming that the current trend of child population ( 0-14), which account for 12 percent and middle age group ( 15-64), which account for  51 percent, prevail in 2050, the working population strength will be 51 million in Japan by 2050. This underlines an alarming situation in Japan for human capital resources. The importance of human capital to any economy is its working population and domestic demand 

Realizing the dark days, the  Japanese government eased visa rules from  April , 2019.  Japanese parliament amended its immigration law to attract 345,000 foreign workers over a period of five years. The significance of easing visa rules by Japan as compared to other nations is that despite being conservative Japan went more liberal in opening the immigration.   While other nations opened their doors for foreign workers only in highly skilled jobs, Japan opened for multiple categories ,including marginally  skilled , semi-skilled and highly skilled workers. 

This suits  to  Indian workforce, who are reliant on middle level skill.  There are two sets of visa to be issued to the foreign workers – Technical Intern Class 1 and Class 2. Technical-1 refers to marginal skilled workers in designated fields. Technical -2 is directed to semi-skilled workers with work experiences in designated fields.  

Liberalizing migration for semi-skilled workers will open a new opportunity for Indian workers. Indian workers can pose challenges to other foreign workers at the behest of their cheap workforce. For example, opportunities will arise for Indian semi-skilled and marginal workers  in construction sectors , where they  have an edge over others. This is because  they will be cheaper and  have experiences in overseas construction works, derived   from oil rich countries’ construction boom.  

Nursing is another area. Its  requirement will increase with the growing Japanese aging people. Indian nurses have global reputation. They have already outsmarted Philippine nursing care service workers in UK and Ireland. According to a survey, three quarters of the employers surveyed in these countries advocated  India as primary source country for registered nurses.

Given the demographic advantage of India, a new chapter opens for India – Japan economic relation. At the outset, the foremost task will be to foster a new look among the Japanese towards foreigners to wipe out the age – old foreign xenophobia. At present, only 2 percent of Japanese residents is foreigners. The second important task will be skill development of Indian workers. These need a massive role by Japanese government, training institutions and social and welfare institutions , such as NGOs and intervention at the Japanese  school level to remodel the children mindset , before they plunge into cultural taboos.    

Views expressed are personal

Subrata Majumder

Subrata Majumder is a former adviser to Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), New Delhi, and the author of “Exporting to Japan,” as well as various articles in Indian media, including Business Line, Echo of India, Indian Press Agency, and foreign media, such as Asia Times online and Eurasia Review .

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