India is in a demographically favorable phase. Although India’s demographic dividend is usually lauded as one of its strengths, this has to be understood with caution. Unless skilled, and provided with employment opportunities, the huge demographic dividend that aims to propel India onto the world stage might end up being a liability rather than an asset. This implies that the ratio of working age population to total population ratio is on the increase, leading to a need to provide productive livelihoods to the increasing number of young entering the workforce and also to those who are unemployed or under-employed.
Shifting labor from agriculture to non- agricultural occupations is essential and so is encouraging manufacturing — through initiatives such as ‘Make in India’. India’s employment elasticity was negative for the years 2009-10 and in 2011-12. This cannot be allowed to continue if the country’s economic progress is to be sustained and a certain social cohesion maintained. According to the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), a public-private partnership set up by the Planning Commission with a mandate of providing funding and direction to private skill development programs, the growing skill gap in India is estimated to be more than 250 million workers across various sectors by 2022. Against a target of skilling 8.5 million people in 2012-13, just about 1.4 million were trained by various ministries and NSDC by mid-November 2013.
The fact that employers are themselves aware of this deficiency reflected in a survey of employers where 78 percent of the respondents were concerned with the growing skills gap. With over 77 projects carried out by the NSDC over the past three years notwithstanding, it appears that the only way NSDC may cross its milestones is by involving large private companies and institutions, which have the means and infrastructure to successfully implement such large scale projects.
What is common between most public-private projects that have been successful is the linkage between a corporation’s core business activities and the sphere in which it decides to contribute to social development. The private by deploying its CSR capital on skill development projects, stands to benefit enormously from the availability of a large skilled and disciplined workforce. Such a workforce can easily translate into better levels of customer service, reduced absenteeism and employee turnover, increased productivity and efficiency, along with reduced recruitment costs.
It is such collaborative thinking and action that is required on the part of the government and the private sector which will not only propel growth but ensure that the growth achieved is sustainable, inclusive and equitable.
By Rishabh Gangwar
Senior Programme Manager – Livelihood