(This is a personal blog. Views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
Amid the raging debate in India on the impact of economic growth on employment generation, it is pertinent to raise two questions. One, whether joblessness aggravated social unrest and economic imbalance, and two, whether there are no jobs, or job-seekers lack the skills and qualifications needed to for specific jobs?
The answer is a combination of both. However, there is little doubt that persistent unemployment has led to a rising sense of despair, disaffection, despondency among the diverse younger generation across the country. The situation is best reflected in the words of British historian Thomas Carlyle, “A man willing to work, and unable to find work, is perhaps the saddest sight that fortune’s inequality exhibits under this sun.”
Projected Figure of Unemployed Indians by 2019
The Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE) found that there are about 31 million unemployed youth in India as of February 2018. According to the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) survey findings, more than 30 percent of Indians in the 15 to 29 years age group are neither in employment nor in education and training.
Even the International Labour Organisation (ILO) report ‘World Employment and Social Outlook Trend – 2018’ projected that the number of unemployed persons in India is expected to rise from 18.6 million in 2018 to 18.9 million by 2019, making it the home of 10 percent of the world's jobless people.
The intriguing data further shifts from dismal to gloomy as reportedly, more than 50 lakh students graduate per year with very few fit to be employed, and more than 50 percent of Indian graduates unemployable.
Thus, the collective reflection of all this data displays little or no strategic vision for reducing unemployment. Put differently, it demonstrates the consequences of past inaction or inadequate quality interventions, or both.
Why Govt Schemes Haven’t Helped
To compound the issue, what is truly baffling is the idea of ‘gainful employment’ for 460 million Indian workers that focuses on improved quality of work and the income derived from it.
Boosting the employment status of young adults and helping employers meet labour force demands, are complementary goals. Drawing up strategies to realise them requires divergent thinking, critical evaluation, introspection and clarity. To improve outcomes both for young adults and businesses, the stakeholders like the government, employers and educational institutions need to shore up and make changes on both the supply and demand sides of the labour market.
Government schemes like ‘Skill India’, ‘Make in India’, ‘Prime Minister's Employment Generation Programme’ (PMGEP), ‘Pradhan Mantri Rojgar Protsahan Yojana’, and ‘Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana’ aimed at more fulfilling, more rewarding, and more productive work for our workforce, are significant, but there have been no green shoots yet. And it’s worrisome as apparently 90 percent of India’s labour force – primarily low-skilled or unskilled – are employed in the nation’s informal economy. Worrisome still is the UNESCO report stating that India will achieve universal primary education by 2050, universal lower secondary education in 2060, and universal upper secondary education in 2085.
60 million children in India receive little or no formal education, and the country has over 11.1 million out-of-school students in the lower secondary level – the highest in the world.
Thus, it’s all the more important to go for concerted efforts to deal with the country’s low-skill intensity and low-education attainment, to make a skill-scarce pool productive.
The Way Forward
Given the urgency of the situation, here is what we can do:
- Government’s unwavering commitment towards resolving employment crisis, and drawn up polices. For example, it’s primarily due to Singapore’s longest-serving Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s commitment that the country has just 2 percent unemployment and holds the 3rd position in the global education league.
- Developing strategies for accountability-based project implementation. Experts and faculty members from eminent institutions can be roped in for a time-bound audit of project implementation.
- Youth involvement — government may consider having ‘Children’s Parliament’ like the one in Bhutan. The ‘Children’s Parliament’ doesn’t have a prime minister and parties. The members submit the proceedings of the parliament to the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Prime Minister, and the Opposition leaders and other senior officials. It would allow children the opportunity to voice their ideas, thoughts and feelings, so that their concerns can be heard and included in our social and political landscape.
- If ‘Skill India’ is to turn into a significant initiative, there must be an ecosystem in place connecting learning institutions, teachers and trainers, industries and policy makers.
- On the innovation front, we can think of taking a cue from other countries. For instance, ‘Philadelphia School of Circus Arts’, a professional training school for circus artists in Philadelphia, US launched last year. We could similarly create institutions and put in place training programmes for entertainers and artistes in our country.
These are only some ways in which we can help alleviate India’s unemployment problem.
(The author is Former General Manager, International Centre Goa & Dy General Manager, India International Centre, New Delhi.)
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