India’s workforce boom is a mixed blessing: experts

NEW DELHI, December 5, 2010 (AFP) – An explosion of working-age people in India could serve as an engine of economic growth — or bring social turmoil, experts say. Over the next two decades, India’s working-age population will increase by 240 million — four times the entire population of Britain — according to investment house Deutsche Bank.

But without education, this “demographic dividend can easily become a demographic curse,” Rajat Nag, managing director of the Asian Development Bank, warned at a recent conference of international investors in New Delhi.

The seeds of conflict can already be seen, with 800 million people living on under 20 rupees (45 cents) a day, according to official data, and a growing Maoist revolt in poor areas shut out from the nation’s economic boom.

“Superpower dreams cannot be sustained on empty stomachs. India has a long way to go to reach the levels of income that would guarantee all its citizens a prosperous lifestyle,” Bajaj Auto chairman Rahul Bajaj told the same forum.

Under a best-case scenario, India’s burgeoning youth population will boost earnings, savings, productivity and economic growth by reducin