By Poonam Munjal & Asrar Alam
In order to capitalise on the demographic dividend, become atmanirbhar, graduate from “Make in India” to “Make for World” and achieve several Sustainable Development Goals, there is an apt and aggressive focus on the quality education, along with vocational training, on the part of the government. There is a dedicated ministry of skill development and entrepreneurship, formed in 2014, which looks after and coordinates all skill development efforts across the country.
Several schemes under this ministry aim to encourage skill development, including Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), National Skill India Mission, National Policy on Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Indian Skill Development Service (ISDS), Jan Shikshan Sansthan (JSS), SANKALP and so on. The New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 also calls for focusing on skill-based education along with learning-based education, to address the skill gaps in the country, and is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals 4.4 and 8.6.
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When it comes to the targets, National Skill India Mission, launched in July 2015, aims to impart employable skills to 10 million youth every year, through long- and short-term training. Long-term training is imparted through a network of about 15,000 Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) across the country. For short-term and domain training, over 11,000 Skill Centres are designated to provide training to youth to take up industry-relevant skill training; 300 JSSs target non-literates, neo-literates and school drop-outs in rural areas; and 14 India International Skill Centres impart training to youth seeking global mobility. NEP 2020 sets a target of 50% enrollment in vocational education in school and higher education.
However, as per the latest Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS-2020-21), only 13.8% of Indian youth are vocationally trained—a mere 4.1% through formal and 9.7% from informal sources. Clearly, there is a lot that needs to be done to catch up with countries like Korea, where the proportion of vocationally-trained youth stands at over 90%, the US (at 50%), Germany (at 75%), and many others.
The questions pertaining to the outcomes of the skilling initiatives are many. How far have these initiatives achieved the overall skilling target? What has been the contribution of these initiatives to total trained persons, which also includes those trained through informal sources? Are formally-trained persons more likely to get a job than others? Are the training programmes gender-inclusive? There are many more such questions. PLFS 2020-21 answers a number of these questions, and the answers are not so reassuring.
The data finds that of the total estimated youth population (15 to 29 years) of 301 million, only 13.8% received vocational or technical training. Less than one-third of vocationally trained persons received training from formal sources. Rest received from informal sources, that is, either through already trained family members or on their own or learnt on the job.
The work participation rate of formally trained youth persons is higher than those with no training at all, but much lower than those with informal training. Of the total persons with no training, 27.1% are employed and an additional 5.6% are seeking work, whereas, in the pool of persons with formal training, these proportions are 41.6% and 18.9%. In sharp contrast, however, 79.4% of informally trained persons are employed and only 2.6% are unemployed or seeking work.
As many as 27.3% of the youth are Not in Employment, Education or Training (popularly referred to as NEET youth). These are the potential entrants to labour-force. The youth NEET rate is 9.6% for boys and 47.6% for girls as against the world average of 13% and 30%, respectively (World Youth Report, 2020, United Nations).
Fortunately, the training opportunities are fairly gender-inclusive. The proportion of formally trained boys versus girls is somewhat in tandem at 56 to 44, unlike for informally trained space, where this is 70 to 30. However, there is a huge disparity with respect to their work participation rate. While 52.7% of formally trained boys are employed and 23.8% are out of labour-force, mostly to pursue higher education, only 27.2% of trained women work and as many as 60% opt out of the labour-force, mostly to attend domestic duties. This suggests not only is the overall female labour-force participation shrinking, trained female labour-force participation is also collapsing. While there are a number of courses or fields of training that are offered by ITIs, Skill Centres or even schools and skill hubs meant for school-going children, the data suggests that as many as half of the trained persons are skilled in one of just three fields, viz IT/ITeS, textiles/handloom and electrical/electronics. This is despite the fact that, for these fields, the youth unemployment rate is 31%, 6.7% and 36.2%, respectively. This may perhaps indicate that one, the employment opportunities for these popular fields are not adequate enough to meet the supply; two, youth pick the courses having little awareness about their prospects and perhaps out of peer pressure; and three, these are the most commonly offered courses in the training institutes, leaving little options to choose from.
Hence, the government schemes and initiatives should not just aim to achieve the targets in terms of number of people trained but also ensure quality, diversity, and pathway to employment or entrepreneurship. We are on the edge of losing the benefit of demographic transition soon, something that we cannot afford as nation. There is a huge chunk of youth, especially NEET youth, out there who, if provided with an employable skill, may not just become self-reliant themselves but also contribute to the country’s aim to become atmanirbhar.
The author is Respectively, senior fellow, and senior research analyst, National Council of Applied Economic Research Views are personal