Changing Youth Perception

This is the gist of the survey conducted by India Today-AC Nielsen-ORG MARG for 2007 to study youth behaviour and proclivity in the 18-30 age bracket. Cynics might ask: what is the need for such a survey? Take this: as of now, 47 per cent of India’s population is below 20 years of age; according to MindShare Insights, by 2015, the figure would go up to 55 per cent. When such a huge chunk of population is young and seems to have successfully adapted to the changed — and changing — order of the day, the relevance of any survey on youths cannot be overemphasized.
Carried as cover story by India Today (February 19, 2007), the survey in question has many categories and parameters to assess the thinking pattern of youths in modern, post-reforms India. There are some interesting facts and figures — some startling too. First, a discouraging note. Only eight per cent of youths spend a typical weekend playing sports, while 48 per cent of them hang out with friends. This is a bad sign for the health of the nation and a pointer to the shame called India when it comes to the Olympics. In India, barring the vicariousness of cricket, games and sports do not appeal to policy-makers.

But there are a whole lot of encouraging figures as well, which probably epitomize the evolving Indian youth. An overwhelming 85 per cent of youths think that both males and females are given equal opportunities at home — reflective of a kind of satisfaction in regard to gender issues in a country that has long had a tradition of gender prejudices. Take the youth opinion on inter-caste or inter-religion marriages, where 64 per cent of them say such marriages are acceptable — which means caste or religion as a decisive factor in making families is being increasingly jettisoned. It also marks a shift towards social inclusion and cohesiveness; more important, it asserts the negation of man-made barriers that polarize society. This naturally brings us to what today’s Indian youths think of the uniform civil code. Aware, perhaps, as they are of the tenets of secularism, 83 per cent of them have opined that the country should have a uniform civil code — a line of thinking that indubitably augurs well for a society given to religion-specific personal laws that run counter to the very claims of a secular nation-state. If more than 80 per cent of Indian youths want a uniform civil code, the government ought to wake up and see reason.

Now I must come to the crux of the whole matter. As of now, only 27 per cent of men in the 18-30 age bracket prefer government service to other career opportunities, while for women the figure is understandably higher — 40 per cent. However, that 40 per cent of young women would still choose government service as the best career choice, does not in any way go to the glory of government service. Most of these women hanker after government service not for any adventure or career advancement, but for the stereotypical notion of ‘security’ in government service. This so-called security is such that one can earn even without having to bother about work, and one can go on being employed without bothering about performance. It must, then, be said that our women — that class of 40 per cent — are yet to unshackle themselves and redefine the notion of job ‘security’.

But what is the average figure when it comes to government service as the best career choice? It is 34 per cent. This lot, both male and female taken together, is still wedded to the idea of security in government service. What is, however, encouraging is that, of the remaining ones who would not be government servants, 23 per cent have shown their preference for entrepreneurship and 18 per cent for private sector service. Add to this the preference for a career choice that used to be the most sought after at one point of time — Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Indian Foreign Service (IFS). Only seven per cent of Indian youths would opt for IAS or IFS as the best career choice.

Even last year, the percentage of youths opting for government service was as high as 47, which is now 34. What could be the reason for a decrease by 13 per cent? It is that the modern, educated Indian youth would not experiment with the nonsensicality of an oversized, anti-people, callous Indian babudom. More and more youths are venturing out in the space created by post-reforms market dynamics and industry. Flexible as they are, and prepared to tread uncharted territories, today’s youths also represent a mindset in the making, for which ‘‘building academia-industry partnerships has acquired paramount importance in today’s world’’ — as rightly noted by Venkatesh Kumar, social scientist associated with the University of Mumbai. Since today’s Indian youths are also known for their professional mobility and confidence, and since they are experimenting with non-conventional careers, it is time our universities changed their own mindset and introduced exciting — and rewarding — curricula as response to the winds of change brought about by economic liberalization.

(The writer is the Consulting Editor of The Sentinel)

\\"The Sentinel \\" 16.02.2007