What the Modi government needs to do to harness India’s demographic dividend
Mahatma Gandhi once remarked, ‘Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow-men.’ Same is the case with a country. A nation becomes great when the government works for the interest and benefit of its citizens. Social infrastructure is in a dire need of attention in India and the success of the government in providing for it will determine India’s growth in the coming years.
The need for Inclusion in Healthcare
The progress in the standard of healthcare of a country is determined by the efficiency of the health care delivery system and not only by extensive research in the field of medicine and eradication of chronic and infectious diseases.
The Eleventh five year plan was unsuccessful in meeting its target in terms of providing sufficient health care facilities. Against a target of 85, the number of doctors per lakh of population remained as low as 45 while only 75 healthcare staff members per lakh were available, much below the target of 255. IN 2010, India’s healthcare expenditure was merely 4.3% of the GDP which is below the average (5.3%) of the Low and Middle Income group Countries as identified by the WHO.
Apart from the lack of the required health personnel there exists a problem of underutilisation, as the registered doctors and nurses remain inactive, specially in the rural sphere, due to the low pay and high stress involved in the job.
A major problem in the country is with respect to the quality of health care provided, which differs drastically across different strata of society as well as across states. In most situations the regulatory standards are not met leading to a large number of under-qualified doctors serving the people at the lower end of the hierarchy.
Majority of the people in the country lie outside the ambit of medical insurance which creates a problem of affordability of health care especially for the poor. More than 70% of the health services are provided by the private sector and the role of the government is somewhat missing.
With only 11 countries below India with a lesser expenditure by the government in health care services and the pressure of addressing the health needs of a growing population, it’s high time that the government wakes up to the cause. An infusion of funds and human resources in the health care sector by the government is needed to ensure that the provision of health facilities is more inclusive and afforable. With respect to this the government has two options, either to become the ‘primary payer’ or the ‘primary provider’ of health care services. (India Healthcare, McKinsey & Company(2012))
India needs to learn from fellow nations who have successfully transformed the status of the society. Brazil has focussed on being the ‘primary payer’ for the provision of health facilities to the citizens while using the private sector as the means for the delivery. Thailand has also championed inclusive provision of health care under the ’30 Baht Scheme’ which entitles the people to avail registered health services for a flat fee of 30 Baht or even for free for the exempted lot.
Current Status of Education- Fighting low learning achievements
Education is the most powerful tool to transform a nation and to put it on a growth trajectory. India has been long fighting the challenge of ‘education for all’ and though has improved its literacy rates year on year, the challenge of low retention rates and learning achievement remains.
The assessment of the Eleventh five year plan suggests that the mean years of schooling in India was about 5.12 years which signals a bad performance in comparison with the other BRIC economies. In China the figure is around 8.17 years while it is 7.54 in Brazil.
The main concern is not that children are not enrolled in schools but the fact that the dropout rates in are steep. In fact, the primary enrolment rates are close to universal in India. The low family income and lack of incentive to attend school have forced many young children out of school. The attendance rates are another major concern, especially in the states of Bihar and Jharkhand where they are below 60%. This majorly reflects in the low learning achievement levels in school children.
‘Status of Indian Education – Present Trends and Past Systems: Some Reflections’ by Dr. Anirban Ganguly shows that the learning levels in government schools have been on a downfall. This can be partially attributed to the recent regulation under the Right to Education which bars the schools from failing any student below class eighth. Although as desired the pressure of performance has reduced but this has also contributed to the undesirable fall in the education quality and standard.
There has been a growing recourse to private schools and according to the data by the District Information System of Education (DISE) the number of children attending private schools increased by 5.8 % from 2010-12. Empirical data shows that private schools have been more effective and impactful in delivering results at low costs as against the government schools which have historically paid higher wages. However, this low cost is not passed onto to students and government schools still remain a more affordable option for the low income group thus reiterating the need for improving the standard of education and teaching in government schools to ensure that high quality education is still affordable.
In terms of learning achievements, data shows that in 2012, 40% of the children studying in class 5 were unable to solve a simple division sum and the reading skills in most children were found to be poor.
On the positive front India has seen improvement in the teacher-student ratios and the availability of drinking water, mid-day meals and proper toilets. However, there is still a shortage of human resources in the field and the government’s Sarva Shiksha Abhyan is yet to reach its full potential in terms of hiring enough teachers for the number of targeted school children.
India has to focus on the following –
– Providing equitable access to education and continually include more disadvantaged groups under the government schemes.
-Improving the quality of teachers’ training in order to impact student learning achievements.
– Implementing good governance practices, especially in schools in rural India where teachers are found absent or are often involved in activities apart from teaching.
Need for focus on skill development
The government has launched the Skill Development Mission in the Twelfth Five Year Plan with an aim to train at least 50 million Indians by 2017. Such programmes were run by the government in the past however their inability to meet the market demand made them unsuccessful in providing employment opportunities to the citizens.
One of the most important reforms that the government should take is to ensure that education, specially at the secondary level, is more relevant to the requirement of the jobs that the students are likely to get. This calls for the inclusion of vocational training programs as a part of the school’s curriculum, specially for the rural audience.
The fact that India has a growing young population adds to the need for development of appropriate skills to ensure that the youth is capable enough to reap the benefits of a demographic dividend.
– Jasmine Makkar
Jasmine Makkar is a first year PGDM- Finance Student at SPJIMR. She has completed her graduation in Economics(H) from Lady Shri Ram College, DU. She enjoys writing, dancing and is a theatre enthusiast.
Follow Jasmine at jasminemakkar.insideiim.com