India’s demographic tightrope: Education’s link to livelihoods

We were in the villages and towns of Uttar Pradesh, chatting with groups of women and youth primarily from low income households. They shared their life concerns and access to a regular source of livelihood appeared to be their biggest worry.

The men found it difficult to get regular work. If the women worked, it was in low-skilled, irregular and poorly-paid daily-wage work. The young men, somewhat educated, refused to do menial jobs and were at home waiting for suitable work to come by.

The failure of education in ensuring livelihood options was setting into motion a vicious cycle. Most of the adolescent girls in some villages had dropped out of school. As some women put it, “When education did not help the boys, what use is educating girls?”

As we drove to the nearest big town, we were held up in a traffic jam caused by a procession that clearly had religious and divisive overtones. The procession dominated by young men, was energetic and loud. It was as if the young men, hunched on their mobile phones in the homes we had just visited, had found purpose.

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