By Prateek Kukreja
While the economy continues to grapple with the economic consequences of Covid-19, the worst affected are the youth, facing mass unemployment and loss of jobs. According to data compiled by CMIE, about 41% of people aged 15-29 were out of work in May; 27 million people aged 20-30 had lost their jobs in April. Even before the pandemic started, India’s economic growth was sluggish, and youth unemployment rates were record high. The job losses due to the pandemic have only exacerbated the situation, and this is going to have severe long-term implications unless there is immediate and effective policy intervention.
The recent launch of Rozgar Bazar portal by Delhi government and the upcoming Unnati portal of the NITI Aayog are welcome steps in this direction. These portals intend to make job opportunities available to the youth, who lost employment due to the lockdown. They allow employers to update job requirements and job-seekers to update qualifications and experience. While this can definitely serve as a great medium to bring job-seekers and employers on one platform, to ensure a better and improved matching of vacancies with the unemployed, it must be complemented with efforts to address skill mismatches in the labour market. As per the government estimates, less than 5% of India’s workforce is formally skilled. Workers in the manufacturing sector particularly have staggering levels of under-education.In 2011-12, in textile and clothing sector alone, around 54.5% people with no formal education, close to 66% with below primary education and 53.7% with primary education held jobs that require higher education levels. On the other hand, close to 82% with secondary education, 76.5% with higher secondary education, 47.8% graduates, and 45.2% postgraduates held jobs requiring lower education levels.
Skilling and education are central for enhancing the employability of the rising workforce, but they would become even more important following the pandemic. Many countries are ramping up their efforts to source and curate jobs through job-matching services in order to restore jobs lost due to lockdown. Workforce Singapore (WSG), a statutory board under the ministry of manpower, Singapore, through its career-matching services, managed to match 10,000 local residents with suitable jobs over the first half of this year, taking its number of placements to be similar to the same period last year, despite the labour market being hit badly due to Covid-19. WSG complemented its job-matching efforts with a range of programmes and resources to support the career development of the job seekers, at no cost. Infosys Ltd, in partnership with pymetrics—the leader in fair talent matching—recently launched the ‘Reskill and Restart’ solution to reskill the American workforce and fulfil employment needs. While these career/talent matching services, like India’s job-matching portals, bring job-seekers and employers on one platform, they also complement it with reskilling, career-coaching, workshops and networking events, supporting workers by familiarising them and upgrading their skills to meet the changing employment needs. This also enables employers to review the available talent pool for the right match effectively.
The world of work, post Covid, will transform, and so would the kind of jobs available for the youth. Recently, while addressing the Digital Skills Conclave on the World Youth Skills Day, the PM emphasised on the need to “Skill, Reskill and Upskill” for surviving in the rapidly changing business environment. Industry 4.0 had begun to transform the world of work even before the outbreak. The pandemic has only accelerated the process. From remote working becoming the new norm to a global reappraisal of the care economy and forced digitalisation and increasing automation, the change would have otherwise taken years. Employers globally are struggling to deploy people with the required skill set, whereas a huge number of displaced workers with limited skills are striving to regain livelihood. We, therefore, need to strengthen our skilling ecosystem today so as to enable workers to regain income and meet their career aspirations by securing quality jobs on the one hand and addressing the needs of employers and firms by providing them with the requisite talent for them to stay competitive on the other. While it is definitely important to provide a platform to the workers who have lost jobs to regain employment, it is equally important to address the persisting and ever-widening skill gaps in the labour market.
The author is Research associate, ICRIER. Views are personal