The problem of skilling India -Christophe Jaffrelot & Vihang Jumle

-The Indian Express

India’s employment crisis calls for more government expenditure in education, adequate training.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his recent Independence Day speech, said, “We need to worry about population explosion”. These words stand in stark contrast to his previous references to India’s demographic dividend where the country’s population was seen as an asset. This shift reflects a new awareness, according to which demography brings a dividend only if the youth is trained properly. Without proper training, instead of benefits, the country gets massive joblessness — at least, this is what common sense suggests. Reality is more complicated.

A minimum of eight million new job seekers enter the jobs market every year. In 2017, only 5.5 million had been created, and the situation is worsening: Unemployment rate is the highest in 45 years today. The Indian youth has become the first casualty, with the unemployment rate reaching 34 per cent among the 20-24-year-olds in the first quarter of 2019 — it was 37.9 per cent among the urban lot, according to the CMIE. Official sources from the government of India do not give very different data: According to the last 2018 Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), the unemployment rate among the urban 15-29-year-olds (a very large bracket) was 23.7 per cent. One may hypothesise that this pervasive joblessness was due to the poor training of the youth as only seven per cent of the people surveyed in the framework of the PLFS declared any formal or informal training.

But there is a paradox here: According to a recent survey, 48 per cent of Indian employers reported difficulties filling job vacancies due to talent shortage. The worst affected sector — which is also one of the strong points of India’s economy — has been Information Technology (IT), where 1,40,000 skilled techies could not be recruited in 2018 despite the employers’ efforts (a high proportion of the 5,00,000 job offers that had been made that year). Indeed, the CMIE reports show that the more educated Indians are, the more likely they are to remain unemployed too. The last PLFS for 2018 revealed that 33 per cent of the formally trained 15-29-year-olds were jobless.

The Modi government assumed that this problem crystallised because the trained youth were not well-trained enough. Hence, the “Skill India” programme, whose objective was “to train a minimum of 300 million skilled people by the year 2022”. In 2014, Modi created a Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship to harmonise training processes, assessments, certification and outcomes and, crucially, to develop Industrial Training Institutions (ITIs) — the building blocks of this endeavour. The Executive Committee monitoring the mission gathered representatives of nine ministries, as vocational training was seen at the intersection of different domains, including agriculture, information technology, human resources development.

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The Indian Express, 7 September, 2019,

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