Will India’s Demographic Dividend payout?
India is on the brink of an exploding workforce that will need a meaningful as well as sustainable means of livelihood in the immediate future. The Census of India 2011 estimates that by 2020, over 65% of the country’s population will attain working age, which has been summed up as India’s “demographic dividend”. But on the other hand, there is also the fact that one out of every three graduates in India are unemployed. The table below (%) further illustrates how India is sitting on a virtual time bomb that may result in disillusionment and disenfranchisement, unless opportunities for gainful employment are not devised urgently.
Youth population ratio (%) in rural and urban areas by education level
|Diploma (< graduation)||59.1||25.2||49.1||61.6||31.8||51.5||60.5||29.4||50.5|
|Diploma (> graduation)||50.7||12.9||32.6||64.0||34.6||52.3||60.4||27.2||46.3|
Source: NSS 66th Round, Schedule 10 – Employment and Unemployment, 2009-10
What Does the Youth of India Have to Look Forward To?
Opportunities abound in various sectors, ranging from BPO, KPO, IT and numerous other sectors. Yet, the apprehension is palpable, as most if not all white collar jobs require some level of education. While there is a tremendous amount of drive towards education, the speed at which the population is increasing and literacy being propagated, India will have to struggle with staying ahead. A decidedly bleak future, is it not? Unless, one considers a sector which has never been thought of – agriculture. Up until now, a career in agriculture has never been considered, either out of prejudice or simply a long history of abuse and exploitation.
So Is a Career in Agriculture a Viable and Feasible Life Decision?
The answer is yes! More than any other commodity, food will be the most critical. With a growing population, the one single most effective bargaining chip will be food. But of course, when picturing agriculture, one can’t help but visualize back-breaking labour and meagre returns. Well, agriculture is a far more dynamic sector than perceived earlier. And with technology now in the picture, agriculture need not paint the typical picture one associates with it. Job profiles and titles in agriculture are as complex and diverse as those in the corporate sector. These profiles include Communications, Economics, Education, Sciences, Food Science, Engineering, Soils and of course direct farming. The possibilities are endless and opportunities abound.
What Are the Possibilities and Opportunities?
As of today, there are so many reasons that favour a purposeful career in agriculture. Some of the factors are a result of the market while others are innate opportunities in agriculture itself. Let’s take a closer look at the various incentives if one were to choose agriculture as one’s chosen life career.
Government schemes: The government of India has created a wide platform to promote agriculture in a big way. Numerous schemes and programs have been initiated which are designed to help not only farmers but students as well as NGOs. For instance, the Meghalaya government schemes for farmers provide subsidies to farmers not only for agricultural produce but for horticultural produce as well. The majority of these programs offer subsidies, while others include trainings, grants, material benefits and other incentives.
High value – Low volume: Given the fact that the population boom is inversely proportionate to land holding, it is time now to move away from either conventional farming or conventional produce. The market is opening up and opportunities abound with high value produce like spices, aromatic plants & herbs and emerging superfoods like quinoa. So while you may not own a huge plot, one can always make the best of whatever plot of land one owns to grow high value produce.
Organic movement: The organic food market in India is growing at 25-30% and is set to reach ₹ 9,000 crores by 2020. And recent estimates peg the domestic market at ₹ 300 crores while the export market stands at ₹ 700 crores. The awareness and growth of this movement was also compounded by the rise in the number of diseases owing to the excessive presence of chemical contamination in our food. With growing awareness about healthy living, consumers are willing to pay premium prices for organic food products. And these range from vegetables to grains to pulses. Moreover, the government is determined to back organic farming and is providing various schemes and subsidies for farmers who are growing their produce organically.
Food processing: Consumers are constantly in search of unique food products that appeal to a range of age groups, health condition and preferences in their families. And this is where the food processing industry makes the big bucks. A good example is the wide variety of fusion teas available on the market as of now. Sold individually, there are only so many varieties of teas, ranging from the conventional black to the health enthusiast’s green to the recently introduced white tea. Yet, once fused with various ingredients, the final product takes on an entirely new aspect and the cost more than doubles. The next five years will see food production double and the food processing industry will have a major impact on the market as well as the consumers.
Supply chain: India has a total of 118.9 million farmers, which accounts for 24.6% of the total workforce of 481 million! These farmers are spread all across the country and even though several government initiatives have been formulated, challenges still exist with respect to supply chain and storage. This is especially true of the farmers of topographically challenged regions like Northeast India. Farmers here have to contend with growing only subsistence crops that provides them with easy cash and which can be quickly disposed of in the market. And it is because of this that farmers are reluctant to grow high value crops. For someone who chooses to connect these farmers to the market, the possibilities are endless.
With the above being said, and as with any job, the agriculture sector too is not an easy one. There are as many challenges as there are opportunities. Yet, when one considers the positive aspects, as well as the amount of attention that the agriculture sector is garnering, one can’t help but be optimistic!
So if you are considering a career in agriculture, then you are in a for a long, challenging but rewarding career. Let us know what you think about a career in agriculture.