Explained: aspirations, worries of young India

A report recently published by Lokniti-CSDS in collaboration with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, which surveyed 6,277 young people aged 15 to 34 in 18 states from July to August 2021, offers insights into their job aspirations, job preferences and expectations, and theirs Opinion on kinship institutions, and their mental health.

Professional status

The professional profile of Indian youth appears to have changed significantly over the course of a decade and a half, with two fifths (39%) describing themselves as students. This has increased by 7 percentage points since 2016 and by 26 percentage points since 2007. The data also suggest that while more young men (39%) were employed compared to young women (11%), a higher proportion of young women (42%) were studying than young men (36%).

Age shows a clear connection with the job. Almost four out of five adolescents from the youngest cohort studied and earned only 4%, while almost half of the adolescents in the group between the ages of 18 and 24 studied and only one in five earned. This indicates increased enrollment in higher education (Figure 1).

Young people identified skill-related characteristics (qualifications, experience and communication) as important when looking for a job. On the positive side, they were least likely to consider identity-related factors to be a decisive role in job search (Table 1).


More than half (55%) said they would prefer a job with the government; a quarter (24%) would prefer to start their own business. If you compare these with findings from youth studies from 2007 and 2016, they show changing priorities. Five years ago, 65% preferred government jobs, three percentage points more than a decade earlier. Interestingly, there is a growing desire among young people to start their own business (Figure 2).

You also notice a change in career aspirations. When asked what occupation they would choose if they had the freedom, the responses showed an increase from 3% to 17% for those wishing to enter the health sector as doctors, nurses or other medical staff (Figure 3) . One possible reason for this could be the Covid-19 pandemic.


Many young people now marry at a later age than before. According to the study, the proportion of young people married has fallen by 13 percentage points since 2007 and by five percentage points since 2016. In the present study, 42% said they were married (Figure 4).

The youth showed greater acceptance of the idea of ​​intercaste marriage than of interreligious marriage. While 61% were in favor of inter-caste marriage and 30% were against it, there is limited empirical evidence that this pursuit is turning into reality. Support for interfaith marriage is still not widely accepted, with 45% of young people in favor and 42% against (Figure 5).

Mental health

The study found that the youth were most concerned about family financial security, followed by their own health. About six in ten (56%) were worried about their job and more than half (54%) about their appearance.

More than 50% of teenagers said they get angry about little things. It is important to emphasize that these symptoms do not necessarily qualify for a mental disorder; This is just a report of the responses. About half said they felt sad, lost interest in daily activities, and had been lonely in the past two or three years. It was also found that people with high exposure to social media are more emotionally stressed than those with little or no exposure.

Although the majority of adolescents said they had never had suicidal thoughts, almost two in ten (21%) had such thoughts, either often or sometimes in the past two to three years (Figure 6).

When asked, hypothetically, who they would turn to if they were struggling with depression or looking to end their lives, 65% said they would turn to either a family member or relative – which highlights the importance of family in the Indian context – while 15% would approach friends. Only 3% said they would turn to a psychologist. This could possibly be due to social stigma and negative stereotyping of people with mental health problems. Worryingly, 9% said they would not speak to anyone.

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Overall, the data shows that India’s youth are concerned about a number of issues. This could be linked to the pandemic, which is exacerbating financial and health worries. Teenagers also showed some symptoms of emotional distress, but what is worrying is that a fairly large proportion of them have not sought medical help. It is important to ensure there is general mental health awareness and access to mental health care.

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