Why Narendra Modi’s Skill India alone can’t resolve unemployability issue

Updated: Aug 20, 2019 11:16 AM

Skill India Initiative needs the introduction of key strategic and judicious changes to achieve its proposed goal.

budget 2019 nirmala sitharaman said government will focus on new-age skills for job creationSkill India Initiative is eventually expected to add 1.55 million formal jobs by 2021.
  • Rituparna Chakraborty

From the longest time, we have been saying that India does not have a job problem but the problem of employed poverty. The only sustainable way to address this issue is through Formalization, Urbanization, Industrialization, Financialization, and Skilling. As a practitioner of the Indian job market, we have been able to give jobs to only 5% of youths who come to us for jobs, since rest 95% lacked the skills required for the jobs. As we step into the 73rd year of Independence, and among all the impactful policies and reforms, that Indian government has initiated till date, Skill India Initiative having been the most culminating, is eventually expected to add 1.55 million formal jobs by 2021 as a combined contribution to job formalization. However, to help this initiative achieve its proposed goal, the biggest challenge would be to introduce key strategic and judicious changes.

According to India Skills Report 2019, the overall employability percentage for 2019 is 47% – an incremental difference of almost 2-3 % points since last year and a substantial change of over 15% points in the past 5 years. India Skills Report further reinforces the need for massive skilling requirements for the Indian youth. The ruling government’s Skill India Initiative’s impetus and influence towards job formalization have been massive if we relook and compare the kind of initiatives that have been announced in the last few terms by various Indian government reiterating their commitment, in their Union Budget 2019, the current government emphasized adding major focus on imparting new-age skills like artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, big data, 3-D printing, virtual reality, and robotics to equip Indian youth to take on high-paying jobs. However, the catch is that constant reskilling alone cannot resolve India’s employability challenge, given that the real need is to create a perfect balance of an operative talent pool and conducive job environment. To ensure that, it is critical India has an effective employment ecosystem built on a firm foothill of skill development that can generate high-paying, high-skilled jobs of the future as well as a robust infrastructure, and a non-discriminatory business environment without any regulatory cholesterol for the private sector.

Skill India contributed 0.93 million of 7.06 million of formal workforce in the year 2015-2018 in which the total number of jobs accounted to flexi staffing is 0.07 million, according to Indian Staffing Federation Report 2019. This has happened because employers have become more open to formalize their informal workforce due to availability of skilled pipeline. But, India still will have to face the employability and wage concern issues at grassroots level as none of these initiatives on its own can provide concrete results and generate mass employment. With constructive steps towards creating decentralized governance, employment for the underprivileged and the deprived, better productivity levels and women participation in the labor force, we can raise living standards, channel inclusive growth and create an employment economy that is long due for India.

Our nation’s immediate need is a bigger talent pool of apprentices who can get the right exposure to hone their skills and become employable and readily productive. A prolific move would be to consider forming National Apprenticeship Corporation by merging RDAT (Regional Directorate of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship) and BOAT (Board of Apprenticeship Training). The aim of this unified entity should be to enrol 10 million apprentices from the current 1 million and help them find employment by setting up National Matching Platform, an exclusive job portal for apprentices. Another step to encourage formal enterprises and provide apprentices training is to scale up Apprenticeship subsidy for them. It should be a viable opportunity for these for-profit business organizations considering a substantial able and needy pool of students cannot avail such exposures of apprenticeship since the Act excludes distance and online education degrees.

Staffing companies, which is an important pillar and advocate of job creation for India have already been strengthened by the Skill India Initiative and further expects to add 0.15 million towards flexi staffing by 2021. This segment is sure-footed to provide quality resources to enterprises without having them to invest additionally on the workforce to make them “industry-ready”. Staffing companies have been critical in bridging the demand and supply gap for the industry by providing skilled resources at right time and with Skill India initiative in line, their contribution to India’s job creation story will be exemplary.

  • Rituparna Chakraborty is President, Indian Staffing Federation.

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