The demographic dividend can only be realised if we can provide the requisite skills that future workplaces require to our youth.
By Narendra Shyamsukha
As India rides into the cusp of a new decade with great economic speed, its ritualistic Annual Financial Statement, or the Budget, as it is popularly known, was presented with expected sops to farmers, the disadvantaged and the middle class. It is estimated that, by 2020, the average age of India’s people will be just 27 years, while that of people in the US, Europe and Japan will all be over 42 years. This, supposedly, gives us a competitive advantage over those advanced economies in terms of bagging employment and business projects. However, the demographic dividend can only be realised if we can provide the requisite skills that future workplaces require to our youth.
Last year’s Budget had one of the lowest allocation for education, at just 3.5% of GDP. This year, interim finance minister Piyush Goyal announced Rs 38,572 crore will be allocated to this sector, amid calls by the sector for greater public funding.
However, there is a real challenge to increase workplace productivity in order to sustain economic growth. Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, data analytics and Internet of Things are altering the pattern of employee demand by industry. All-weather competencies such as accounting and information technology are being significantly impacted by new data security risks and exposure to unsafe micro-environments in cyberspace. Users need to be simultaneously upskilled to deal with these challenges.
The government’s flagship Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana is in the process of providing skilling to over 1 crore youth in various parts of the country, to help them prepare to earn a livelihood. Over Rs 7 lakh crore have been disbursed as loans under the MUDRA and Stand-up India schemes to start-ups and self-employment ventures to the needy. However, the current plans have been criticised for their disjointed connect with the current employment patterns in the industry. They have also been unable to address aspirations of new-age youth in their quest for more convenienced lifestyles.
In order to address these concerns, the government must consider imparting skill development in longer-term programmes and also provide opportunities for upgrading current skills, as job roles keep changing with time. Changing workplace practices such as digitalisation, automation and statistically-determined decision-making must also be made part of skilling curricula and greater independent experts be called upon to design and deliver trainings for long-lasting careers.
-The author is founder chairman, ICA Edu Skills