Share of the under 15 age group in the total population has come down from its highest lived of 42% (1971) to 35% in 2001. Share of the 15-60 age group has increased slightly from 53% to 59%, while the share of 60+ age group is very small but has begin to increase over the same period.
But the age composition of the Indian population is expected to change significantly in the next two decades. There will be reduction in share of 0.14 groups from 34% to 23%, while 60+ age group will increase its share by about 5% i.e. from 7% to 12%.
The bias towards younger age groups in the age structure is believed to be an advantage for India. Like the East Asian economies in the past decade and like Ireland today. India is supposed to be benefiting from a demographic dividend. This dividend arises from the fact that the current generation of working -age people are relatively large one, and it has only a relatively small proceeding generation of old people-to support.
But there is nothing automatic about this advantage; it needs to be consciously exploited through appropriate policies. This potential can be converted into actual growth only if the rise in the working age group is accompanied by increasing levels of education and employment. If the new entrants to the labour force are not educated, then their productivity remains low. If they remain unemployed then they are unable to earn at all and will become dependents rather than earners.