The absence of social protection, low remuneration, and low skill content characterise informal sector employment, which is not aspirational for the highly educated youth.
As India’s youth move towards securing higher education, the lower generation of quality jobs has worsened the condition of unemployment in India as they can’t commensurate to such educational levels. India has a young population with a significant percentage in the working-age as against an ageing population in most of the developed world. However, there has been relatively lesser addition of youth to the labour force in recent years. “One of the critical reasons for lesser addition of youth in the workforce is the rise in the number of youth attaining higher education,” Gayathri Vasudevan, Executive Chairperson and Co-Founder, LabourNet Services, told Financial Express Online in an interview. The higher education framework in India must evolve along with the new changing paradigms of the employment market, Gayathri Vasudevan, a former project officer at the International Labour Organisation, said. Here are edited excerpts of Gayathri Vasudevan’s interview with Samrat Sharma.
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What is curtailing the rise of employment in India?
Majority of the jobs created have been in the informal sector. The absence of social protection, low remuneration and low skill content characterise informal sector employment, which is not aspirational for the highly educated youth. It has been argued that labour market regulations are too rigid and is hampering employment generation. There is a need to undertake labour reforms with the dual objectives of achieving flexibility in engagement and ensuring compliance with laws.
Another disturbing trend is that out of the total population of vocationally trained, only 38% are deemed as being employable. Thus, there is a pressing need for matching the skill training initiatives with the industry demands so that both the numbers and quality needs are met simultaneously.
What changes in our education system can foster a higher rate of employment?
With the ever-changing demands of the job market and industry, the higher education system must adapt itself to the new paradigm of imparting life skills and imbibing analytical thinking in the learners to prepare them for any jobs that they may take. The transformation towards a genuinely open education system to meet the needs of tomorrow will need vision, openness to change and strong execution which is sustainable and scalable.
But the impact on the individual, the economy and the country as a whole will be tremendous. The growing preference of students towards liberal arts programs also highlights the fact that learners are looking at the breadth of learning than just in-depth technical knowledge in one subject.
How can skill-sets in the fields of carpentry, textile, and construction help to increase the standard of living in the informal economy?
The right skill-sets in the fields of carpentry, textile, and construction aim to improve the standard of living among those who wish for the aspirational circle. Education and training fuels innovation, investment, technological change, enterprise development, economic diversification and competitiveness that economies need to accelerate the creation of more and better jobs and thereby improving social cohesion.
Other critical factors include work and respect for workers’ rights, gender equality, and health and safety standards; good labour relations and social dialogue; and adequate social protection. They can thus serve as a powerful catalyst for realising the universal goal of decent work for all.
How important is it to break the unilateral approach in the Indian education system?
The education system is a very linear education framework in India. It is pumping generations of mechanised and textbook fed breeds into the workforce every year. For the nation to produce more entrepreneurs and youth with enterprising skills, the education system needs to feed into the MSME culture. There needs to be flexibility and interoperability of education with modular certification system at multiple exits.
It is crucial to break the linearity of the education system and make it work integrated for which the ministries of education, skill development and labour need to work together.
How much are the hierarchy and social affiliation of specific jobs hindering the scope of other areas which are considered a failure?
The dimension of prejudice makes the labour markets predisposed to exclusion and discrimination. Inequalities in wages, earnings and incomes of labour are not only a result of the changing attributes, revenue and productivity of workers but also of the employers’ and society’s understandings about the value of the labour and attitude towards diverse categories of workers. Employability of a worker is usually determined not just by the nature and quality of the skill but by some socio‐cultural attributes of the employer.