With the upcoming trends in technology, and with the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, India can meaningfully leverage its demographic dividend only with sustained efforts to upskill its large workforce
By Varun Dhamija
India’s demographic dividend is unquestionably unique. The median age of Indians in 2020 will be 28 years, by far the lowest in the world for a comparable economy. By contrast, the median age in Japan is 49 years—one of the highest in the world for comparable economies—while the US and China, at 37 years each, are not far behind. Even Western Europe boasts a remarkably high median age of 45 years, leaving South Asia as the singular youth hotspot in a world of ageing populations.
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Global consulting firm KPMG’s Indian practice, in conjunction with Google India, recently authored a seminal report on online education in the country, according to which the market for online education in India has been divided across major categories. The chief amongst them remains the primary and secondary supplemental education category as well as the test preparation category. Yet what did not escape any reader’s notice was the largest category in status quo itself—reskilling and online certifications.
Reskilling and online certifications—as is evident in data surveyed in 2016—accounted for approximately $93 million of the roughly $250 million market size that prevails throughout the different categories within the online education market in the country. In fact, no other category comes close to this level of total market share, with reskilling services comprising nearly 40% of existing market share of the wider market.
So, why is it necessary to upskill the workforce in India? This is the most important question facing educators, professionals and companies alike. As India charts its course towards a regional hegemony, rivalling that of the existing politico-economic dominance by China, it needs to reassess its skilled workforce and its respective skill gaps.
According to a NASSCOM study, nearly 40% of India’s workforce (about 4 million professionals, recent graduates, and experienced workers) need to upskill over the next five years in the wake of increased automation and changing industry demands. This is a huge number that should stand to caution nearly every member of the ecosystem—potential employees, existing professionals, companies, universities and colleges, and students—of the looming threat that comes bundled with the wide-reaching promises of the digital revolution. In fact, the revolution is not restricted in scope and scale to mere digital boundaries.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, bringing with it an advent of multiple revolutions in the cyber-physical ecosystems prevalent in our immediate surroundings, will truly disrupt most industries across the globe. A thorough infusion of technology through the Internet of Things (IoT) as well as through multiple technology platforms such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), as well as big data analytics, will result in a fundamental rethinking of the way certain industries are currently operational.
For instance, the IoT wave that has started in most parts of the world may change the way industrial-scale agriculture is operationalised, resulting in newer kinds of complexities to existing jobs pertaining to the agriculture sector. At the same time, the medical sector can be impacted by AR systems that may require doctors to constantly upskill themselves in a bid to be up-to-date with the latest surgery techniques and sequences.
Likewise, it is not inconceivable to understand that thousands of engineers and IT professionals are being compelled to upskill themselves in big data skills, machine learning tools and techniques, as well as artificial intelligence courses. This follows the IT industry layoffs in the recent past that were primarily pinned on an excess capacity of the same level of skilled professionals. Upskilling, then, becomes the default option in order to merely remain relevant to the job market.
All in all, it is quite evident that with the upcoming trends in technology, and with the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, India can meaningfully leverage its demographic dividend only with sustained efforts to upskill its large workforce.
(The author is vice-president, Pearson Professional Programs.)