India will not be able to achieve its target of becoming a developed economy by 2047 without introducing reforms to boost employment, a senior World Bank official has said, reported Financial Times on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has on several occasions emphasised the goal of India becoming a developed economy by 2047. In October, he urged citizens to make India a developed nation by 2047 when the country completes 100 years of independence.

However, Franziska Ohnsorge, the World Bank’s chief economist for South Asia has pointed out that achieving the 2047 target remains a distant dream “in a no-reform scenario”.

In a new report titled Jobs for Resilience, the World Bank said on Tuesday that in the 2010s, India’s employment growth was exceptionally weak compared to other emerging markets and developing economies.

Between 2000 and 2022, the employment ratio in India declined by more than in any other south Asian country, except Nepal. The employment ratio refers to the labour force currently employed against the total working-age population of a region.

“Overall during 2000-’23, employment growth was well below the average working-age population growth and the employment ratio declined,” the report said.

Ohnsorge called this a “missed opportunity”. She said: “It’s almost like the demographic dividend is being squandered.”

A demographic dividend refers to the economic growth potential stemming from a country’s working-age population being larger than the non-working population.

In March, the International Labour Organisation and the Institute of Human Development had also pointed out in a report titled India Employment Report 2024 that the share of unemployed youths in the total unemployed population in India was 82.9%.

The report said that unemployment among youths, especially those with a secondary level of education or higher, has intensified over time.

In September last year, the United Nations said that the proportion of elderly citizens in India is projected to rise to 20% of the total population by 2050, indicating that the country has a limited time to reap the demographic dividend.

To this end, demographic experts told Scroll in January 2023 that India can reap this demographic dividend provided timely measures are taken to solve challenges such as unemployment, and shortcomings in skilling and healthcare to harness the young population.

India’s Chief Economic Advisor V Anantha Nageswaran also said in June that the country needs to “focus on skilling in areas of green technology, artificial intelligence and also other infrastructure skills that our industry would require” to take advantage of the demographic dividend.

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