Socio-Economic Disparities Among Youth in Delhi: Issues and Challenges

Chandrani Dutta and Kanhaiya Kumar

Abstract Around 21 % of Indian population is youth. Youth is considered as the demographic dividend of the country. The paper shows even in a developed region like Delhi disparity across gender and social groups exist. Women from lower economic background face multiple disadvantages. Further this paper raises the concerns about marginalization of youth in Delhi, where one fifth of its main workforce is constituted by youth. They highlighted the disparity in their health status, gender-based discrimination in sex ratios and also unemployment of different social groups from different classes, in Delhi. Policies of the Government like National Youth Policy and Rashtriya Kishore Suraksha Yojana are positive directions but need to be nurtured in full force so as to reduce the existing gaps and ensure the prospects for each and every young individual in the country.

Keywords Social and mental health Youth Gender disparities


Around 21 % of the India’s population is youth. Young age is a very crucial period in an individual’s entire life span. It encapsulates the earlier years when a person is supposed to spend in school, the middle years in higher education and in the latter

C. Dutta (*)

Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, New Delhi, India e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

K. Kumar

Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi 110067, India e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

© Springer India 2017

S.S. Acharya et al. (eds.), Marginalization in Globalizing Delhi: Issues of Land, Livelihoods and Health, DOI 10.1007/978-81-322-3583-5_20

years, one is mostly in various forms of employment. Therefore, youth comprise both the adolescent period and the early years of adulthood. The entire span of years during the youth period therefore is very important from two different levels, first, one must take into account the individual level needs (social and mental health) of the young population, which if not catered to lead to disruption in the normal growth of the individual. On the other hand, this kind of disruption further leads to frustration, anger, sudden outbursts and also even more harmful aggressive behaviour which has a detrimental impact on the community and at large the society. All around the world, antisocial behaviour has got manifested from the youth population who has been denied the expectations they have had from the society. In most circumstances, lack of educational opportunities at the schoolgoing age and lack of suitable employment opportunities in the early adult years lead to tensions which have serious implications on the young individual itself and the society. Youth is considered the demographic dividend[1] of the country. The increase in the working age group with the rise in the youth population signifies growing investment and less spending on the dependent population.

Across different cultures, the youth cohort is found to experience certain changes ranging from biological changes (onset of puberty), cognitive changes (emergence of more advanced cognitive abilities), emotional changes (self image, intimacy, relation with adults and peer groups) to social changes (transition into new roles in the society) (Acharya 2015). It is this period when social interactions increase with friends of same or opposite sex. These interactions get manifested in many forms like entering into relationships, marriage, pregnancy and childbearing. Therefore the immediate social environment, the family, school, neighbourhood through the agents like parents, siblings, relatives, teachers, school mates, peers and neighbours are responsible in shaping the behaviour of the individuals from this cohort. Therefore in all the forms of interactions, youth associating with the positive agents have a positive and constructive influence on their lives and the contrary happens in case of negative agents leading to deviant behaviour. In most cases, such deviant manifestations take place in behavioural disorders and use of harmful substance like smoking and consumption of alcohol and even drugs. The social and economic development of the youth is to a considerable extent a consequence of family background, opportunities available and fair access to these opportunities, and the policy environment in the country which is instrumental in reducing the gaps in demand and supply of resources to each and every individual (Acharya 2015). The ‘Social Learning Theory’ according to Comerci (1990) provides explanation regarding the likelihood of an individual especially someone young, indulging in troublesome behaviour (Comerci 1990 cited by Acharya 2015). The development of the individual depends upon the opportunities available to him and her and exposure to the kind of society, the positive influences inculcated by him or her. Absence of a positive growing environment leads to disorder, conflict in the mindset, frustration which many times lead to depression, behavioural disorders which might lead to offence. Therefore, education in the early years and proper employment opportunities in the later years of youth are crucial in the development of the personality of the young individuals.

Youth has got associated with negative stereotypes for instance, delinquency, drug abuse and violence for a long time. It is one age cohort which not only needs importance from the family level but from the society and hence, policy makers need to see this cohort from these multi-dimensional perspectives. Young people need to realize their rights to education, health, to live free from discriminatory practices and violence. Lack of opportunities on these lines creates disillusionment among the young vibrant minds. Student unrest got widespread during the 1960s in Europe which made international agencies take the agenda on youth. Policies on youth needed to identify the strength hiding in youth which if rightfully channelized would help in development, peace and democracy (Acharya 2015). In Asia, 1978 was a turning point for the youth when UNESCO convened a meeting on ‘Youth Mobilisation for Development’. The UN recognized 1985 as the ‘International Year of the Youth’. Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (2014). Policy makers therefore need to channelize investments on the development of youth keeping in mind that informality is prevalent along with youth unemployment and there lie problems with job quality.2 In addition to this, one must keep in mind, that youth is not a singular entity. It embodies, gender, social and economic status of the individual and also the region from where they belong. Youth as the demographic dividend highly depend on “good policies” and in the absence of quality in the government institutions formulating such policies, the potential of the youth remain unexplored (Chandrashekhar et al. 2006).

The central purpose of this study is to examine the status of youth in Delhi in terms of socio-demographic indicators of development and the disparities existing in the young population across social groups in Delhi. Data from the secondary sources, like Census of India, National Family Health Survey and other documentary sources, have been utilized in constructing the paper. The paper is structured in such a manner as to examine the status of youth in general from the point of view that a healthy young population in a country is also the potential human resource of the country where the outcome should be the equitable development of the entire youth population irrespective of their region where they belong, gender, and their social and economic status.

  • [1] ‘The Demographic dividend is the accelerated economic growth that may result from a rapiddecline in a country’s fertility and the subsequent change in the population age structure. Withfewer births each year, a country’s working-age population grows larger in relation to the youngdependent population. With more people in the labour force and fewer young people to support, a country has a window of opportunity for rapid economic growth if the right social andeconomic investments and policies are made in health, education, governance and the economy.Investments in today’s youth population can position a country to achieve a demographic dividend, but the gains are neither automatic nor guaranteed. (Source: ‘The Potential of Youth fora Demographic Dividend: Investing in Health, Education, and Job Creation’ at the InternationalConference on Family Planning, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 12-15, 2013).
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