By Subrata Majumder
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s apprehension on population explosion in his sixth Independence Day speech from the rampart of Red Fort raises eyebrows among the global viewers. They wonder why India decries the increase in population, while a major part of the developed nations plunged in ageing society. Countries like Japan, UK, Germany, France, USA, S. Korea and even developing nation like China are dipping in ghettoization by elders.
According to a report by United Nation, by 2050, 36.4 per cent of Japanese population will plunge in 65 years of age and above – earliest nation to be ghettoized by ageing society. This will be followed by S. Korea with 35.3 percent of 65 years of age and above, France with 26.7 per cent, Germany with 30.7 percent, USA with 22.1 per cent and China with 26.3 per cent in 2050, will become leaders of the ageing nations.
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 hope to mitigate the human capital shortage, instead of concern. To this end, a debate should trigger as to whether the demographic dividend of India is a boon or bane.
Modi’s concern on high growth in population indicates that it will bring social disharmony in the country in respect of religion and culture. This undermines the growth and throws the policy makers into multiple challenges to cope with. 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 Nations.
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 per cent, the growth rate of Muslim was 36.1 per cent. In 2011, Hindu population share declined from 84 per cent in 1951 to 79.8 per cent and Muslim population share increased from 9 per cent to 14 per cent. The Hindu fundamentalists are worried at this.
Nevertheless, given the global set back erupted due to shortage of working population owing to low birth rate, India’s population explosion should be read as bonanza, instead of paranoia. India can be the future hub for human capital to the developed nations, who are striving for working population.
Japan is a case in point. “Japan is moving an ageing society at a speed, which no other country has ever experienced or will in the near future”, according to Mr Jitsuro Tarashima, Chairman of Japan Research Institute. In 2015, Japan’s population was 127 million. By 2050, it will be lower than 100 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.
Assuming that the current trend of child population ( 0-14), which account for 12 per cent and middle age group (15-64), which account for 51 per cent, prevail in 2050, the working population strength will be 51 million in Japan by 2050. This underlines dark days ahead for 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 the Indian workforce, who are reliant on middle level skill. There are two sets of visas 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 ageing 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 relations. 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 per cent 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. (IPA Service)