Underpaid at work? Blame it on lack of skills

Updated: April 17, 2019 1:55 PM

India’s five labour market transitions are key to understanding our migration patterns. Today, we are taking people to jobs and not jobs to people.

-By Neeti Sharma

India – A 5000 year old civilization is not the most important or powerful country in the world, but it has strong claims to becoming the most interesting country in the world. Our size, our diversity in many ways such as religion, income , language, food etc make us not only interesting but also complex for many to understand .

In India, we have 63 million enterprises of which 12 million don’t have an address, 12 million work from home, only 6.4 million paid indirect taxes till GST, only 1.2 million pay social security, and only 18,500 companies have a paid-up capital of more than Rs 10 crore.

For most Indians, a degree is a pathway to a better life, a better livelihood for themselves and their families. However, not every degree holder is employable and this lower employability impacts the wages and the job roles they get while entering the labour market. Unemployability is a bigger problem in India than unemployment. Everybody looking for employment, gets a job. They don’t however get the wages they aspire for.

India’s five labour market transitions are key to understanding our migration patterns. Today, we are taking people to jobs and not jobs to people. We have over 2 Lakh villages with less than 200 people residing in them out of the 6 Lakh villages. We all know that sustainability is high if one stays with their family and works around their homes. However, most jobs in small towns don’t pay even minimum wages. How does one survive in less than Rs 5000 – 6000.

India’s 3Es of Education, Employability and Employment is important for its growth . We need to create a fine balance between the 3Es by preparing our youth entering the labour market to be more Employable. Preparing youth for what lies ahead of them, not just by getting them degrees, but giving them skills that they will need to become employable. Domain skills, Life skills , Cognitive skills are all key to getting them ready for the world ahead.

So on one hand we have lakhs of graduates passing out from colleges with Degrees and termed unemployable , while on the other we have many skilled candidates looking for employment but industry still wants them to be atleast a graduate. Where does the candidate go in such cases ? Degree but unemployable, skilled but no degree. For a young country with possibly the largest number of job seekers entering the labour market every month, it is unfortunate that the Education policy pays little heed to skills development.

Vocational skills need to be aligned very closely with the Education system and needs to begun in the early years of Education. Initiating learning from School right upto Graduate a degree and upward , every student should be exposed to few basic skills and few specialized ones which they can chose to learn as they go along the Education path. Consider an upward path for a student of 8th or 9th standard. The initial few years should be spent in providing an overview and preparing the students on what skill sets they want and will be good at. Gradually, teach them a particular skill over the next few years, such that when he/she completes graduation, they are ready for Employment in the given sector.

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Traditionally, we have been teaching mostly mostly through classrooms and few practical sessions. Various methods of learning across the four classrooms – OnCampus, OnSite, OnLine and OnTheJob should become the route to learning. Ofcourse, the duration spent across each of these classrooms, when , who and where are variables that can be put together basis the class, skill sets and background of students. While the student learns from his early years of education, a national credit mechanism that recognizes the skills he has learnt will help the student complete his education and skilling in parallel. This will also boost their confidence in vocational skills and give it the much increase in social signalling.

Lastly, we often hear industry complaining about graduates not being job ready and Academicians speaking about the non existent help of industry in preparing the workforce of the future. The best way to involve industry during the education of the students is to integrate classroom learning alongwith On The Job learning. This will provide adequate opportunities to all stakeholders to understand each other’s capabilities, strengths and help in overcoming weak areas.

Subjects such as Behavioural skills, Communication, IT , Teamwork, Analytical ability etc can be developed from early classes for students and they can then be introduced to trade specific skills from Class 9 which can be continued right through the graduation years and beyond. Learning new skills and gaining knowledge is a lifetime activity. This is not something to be set aside for years of education.

(The Author is the Senior Vice President, TeamLease Services Ltd. The views expressed are author’s own.)

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