Quotable: Tom Friedman on defusing a demographic bomb

Youth Skills

Quotable: Tom Friedman on defusing a demographic bomb

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times gives a simultaneously ominous and intriguing description of a competition in economic development: India vs. China vs. Egypt.

Of these three, the one that will thrive the most in the 21st century will be the one that is most successful at converting its youth bulge into a 'demographic dividend' that keeps paying off every decade, as opposed to a 'demographic bomb' that keeps going off every decade. That will be the society that provides more of its youth with the education, jobs and voice they seek to realize their full potential...

If your country has either a strong government or a strong civil society, it has the ability to rise to this challenge. If it has neither, it will have real problems, which is why Egypt is struggling. China leads in providing its youth bulge with education, infrastructure and jobs, but lags in unleashing freedom and curiosity. India is the most intriguing case — if it can get its governance and corruption under control.

Progress in each of these countries falls not only on the shoulders of youth, but on the mechanisms that control them. The goal is to provide structure without squashing creativity - a tricky balance. If youth are given the means to turn their aspirations into realities, countries thrive. If they are not, warns Shashi Tharoor, India’s minister of state for human resource development, "there is nothing worse than unemployable, frustrated youth."

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