As a nation blessed with the demographic dividend, the question that is being asked in every quarter—be it bureaucrats, citizens, politicians or industries—is where are the jobs for a country who has more than 50% of its population under 25 years of age. Having recognised that appropriate skills are critical for building successful careers, it has been targeted to train 500 million youth by the year 2022 in a whole range of skills for a
variety of sectors.
However what is worrisome is that the number of jobs being created in the wake of 7.5% growth of the economy is significantly less. The unemployment rate has grown to 9.6% in 2011 as compared to 6.8% in 2001 as per Census 2011 data. The number of jobs being created in the organised sector is still just 6% of the total jobs available but most of our training efforts are aimed at preparing the youth for these jobs. Even though it accounted for over 94% of workers, India’s unorganised sector created just 57% of India’s national domestic product (2006) as it has low productivity and offers lower wages.
In the organised private sector with more than 10 employees per company, manufacturing sector is the biggest employer in 2008 with 5 million people. However, with increasing automation and robotics being introduced, manufacturing sector currently is unable to provide significant opportunities for those who join the workforce every year. Agriculture sector which employs 49% of the population has seen only 1.1% growth in workforce in 2014-15 and with the projected growth rate of 3-4%, due to lack of adequate jobs, rural families are forced to consider alternate avenues for jobs and skilling. In this context, with significant employment likely to continue in the unorganised sector, it is useful to examine the nature of work that would emanate in the unorganised sector and how to ready the workforce with relevant skills in the context of digitisation taking place in the economy.
A study conducted by PwC highlights that 53% of the 10,000 people surveyed have highlighted the role technology breakthroughs will play in transforming the way people work over the next 5-10 years. As a result of the impact of technological changes, people implications for organisations would vary based on their characteristics and size of operations. PwC report speaks about three categories of organisations that would emerge—the large organisations which would continue to grow bigger and bigger, the socially conscious organisations that would respond to key concerns such as sustainability, demographic dividend and digital divide and small organisations that would be built around specialised capabilities. Each of these types of organisations would call for individuals to build skills and experience to adapt to changing business needs. These range from the need to continually being aligned to objectives and performance measures of the business to developing skills in volunteering and being sensitive to the needs of the society and pursuing expertise by enhancing their own skills.
With the vast majority of those entering the workforce today being part of the unorganised sector, for India, in the near future, focus has to be in building skills for enabling the individuals to succeed in small organisations or through self employment on the strength of their specialisation. Coping with the digital impact and preparing to take advantage of the opportunities thereof would be a critical success factor. Those who want to progress will have to keep their formal skills up to date, rather than relying on their organisations to train them. This means accepting challenging assignments or pursuing one’s own passion through specialised boutique offerings and reaching out or building network of digital communities that could be serviced.
The on-demand economy will inevitably exacerbate the trend towards self-reliance that had taken a back seat for a while due to industrialisation and the attraction it offered to smart people. It would no longer be unfashionable to work from home or work for oneself and pursue any of the myriad opportunities built around known or accessible communities and one’s own expertise. Therefore it is important to understand the employment being created by the unorganised sector and gear up for the possibilities of new jobs that could be created or multiply the current jobs with new flavours on account of digitisation.
We would also see new federations and professional guilds re-emerging which would certify the expertise and skills of professionals through online community ratings and rankings and thus establish new standards for performance. Thus all individual performers—from plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics to small establishments as well as those with advanced academic qualifications—doctors, accountants, IT specialists and others would require to be digitally savvy and add the digital component to their profession—in their delivery of service, in marketing or in their product offerings. IoT, artificial intelligence or cognitive intelligence would no longer be the advanced technologies that would be expensive and complex to implement but would become integral to the way offerings would be designed and customers would be serviced.
Digital literacy mission that the country has embarked upon therefore, is not only essential for the citizens to become familiar with the technology to access information but has the potential to transform small businesses or enhance their livelihood opportunities on the strength of powerful digital tools. In addition to digital literacy, in order to support employment creation in the unorganised sector it would be important to reimagine such landscape of tomorrow and create innovation hubs that could create value added solutions for the traditional jobs in line with the modern day customer’s expectations.
For example, with IoT, electrical gadgets that are installed in homes or offices could signal to the vendors need for their attention without the customers’ intervention or using apps for accessing the nearest plumber available to carry out the repairs at home could be the way forward for electricians and plumbers to delight their customers and expand their network of customers. The need of the hour is to gear up for a combination of core domain skills, digital skills and the ability to think out of the box that would help in redefining the future of work in the unorganised sector.
The writer is CEO, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company