Despite India’s growing economic success, a recent study by Oxford University found that over half of India’s youth lives in acute poverty. Of the staggering 528 million impoverished Indians, almost half are under the age of 18. The study looked at their access to health care, nutrition, clean water, education and other standards of living when assessing poverty in India.

According to the study, of the 689 million impoverished children in the world, 87 percent live in South Asia or sub-Saharan Africa. This study was designed in accordance with the United Nation’s primary Sustainable Development Goal of eradicating poverty in all forms. By addressing youth poverty in highly-populated areas such as India, global poverty could be greatly reduced.

There are many possible explanations for why so many of India’s impoverished are those under the age of 18, including policy issues, general values and the mindsets of India’s citizenry. Rural areas, in particular, are vulnerable to cultural issues such as early marriage and pregnancy, as well as a lack of educational access for girls. These issues are more complex than simple economic reform.

Additionally, author and former Indian Administrative Officer, Anirudh Krishna, addressed three overarching explanations for this phenomenon: healthcare deficiency, insufficient state support of citizens and the upper class’s prejudices towards those in poverty in India. These issues are attributed to India’s particular value system and a lack of opportunity for families living in rural slums. Children from these families lack access to the same opportunities as higher-income children, depriving India of potential economic resources.

The results of this study are particularly astonishing in the context of India’s economic boom. In recent months, India’s GDP grew at seven percent and is set to continue growing to about eight percent in upcoming years — primarily due to its digital boom and healthy startup economy. Despite this growing GDP, India’s rural youth population remains in a state of economic strife.

However, young professionals are beginning to look at the problem as fellows trained to study issues of poverty in India. These fellows study rural areas to understand which resources they lack most and which issues affect children the greatest. Their work focuses on how higher standards of health care and education, as well as access to electricity and technology, are achievable in rural India.

Investing in education is of high importance; it equips children with skills to enter the workforce and might effectively challenge potentially harmful values in rural communities. By addressing this lack of basic needs in rural areas, India can cultivate a generation of healthy, educated and productive citizens. Investing in modern education, technology and opportunities for rural youth could provide India with a great economic return.

Julia Morrison

Photo: Flickr