Linking employment services, skills development & labor market needs: issues for India.

AuthorComyn, Paul
PositionBy Invitation

Promoting Youth Employment

Youth unemployment and underemployment is prevalent around the world because young people lack skills, work experience, job search abilities and the financial resources to find employment (ILO, 2009). In developing countries, this situation is exacerbated by poverty and the competitive pressures that result from a rapidly growing labor force. Moreover, the inadequacy of social protection schemes and active labor market policies means that young people in such economies have little support outside their family and friends. Globally, young people are, therefore, more likely to be either unemployed or employed on more precarious contracts and in the informal sector.

These challenges are prevalent in India, which has the largest youth population in the world with around 66% of the total population being under the age of 35 (representing over 808 million young people). According to 2010 population figures, one in five young people in the world is an Indian. These young people are much more likely to be unemployed: looking at the age group 20-24 living in urban areas in India, 9.7% of young men and 18.7% of young women were unemployed in 2009-10. In comparison, the unemployment rate for Indians aged 30-34 reached only 1.2 and 3.4% for men and women, respectively (UN, 2010).

While India is experiencing a 'demographic dividend' due to the youth bulge, many young people struggle to acquire the right skills demanded by employers to successfully navigate the transition from school to work. Whilst the capacity of the skills system has increased, links between training institutions and employers remain weak with limited vocational counseling and job placement services further frustrating young people's efforts to join the labor market. Moreover, with the dependency ratio expected to rise from 2025, India faces a pressing challenge to increase education and skill levels amongst its population to take advantage of this unique moment in its history. However, the scale of India's challenge to improve the skills of its burgeoning labor force is significant. Whilst 12 million people enter the workforce each year (FICCI, 2010), less that 10% have had access to training (OECD, 2011) and whilst 90% of jobs require vocational training, only 6% of the workforce receives any form of workplace training (CII, 2009).

ILO (2012) noted that of the 17 million new formal sector jobs created during 2009-12, as much as 85 percent offer no employment benefits and social security. Until 2000, informal employment constituted 90 percent of the jobs sector but that number went down to 82 percent by 2011-12. So though ostensibly more formal sector jobs are being created, in reality many of those can be categorized as informal since they lack employment benefits and social security, support often delivered through public employment services.

Scaling Up Skills Development

The imperative of economic growth, combined with concerns over the social consequences of failing to offer livelihood opportunities to its large young population, led the Indian government to invest heavily in skills development and pursue new models to improve the quality and relevance of education and training. The Prime Minister's National Council on Skill Development has set a target of training 500 million skilled individuals by 2022 pursuant to the 2009 National Skill

Development Policy (NSDP). The

NSDP intends to meet the 2022 target by expanding public institutions in rural areas; using innovative delivery models such as mobile and decentralized delivery; using skill development centers rurally to provide training information, guidance and delivery; involving local municipal bodies (panchayats) and local government in skill delivery mechanisms; improving access to apprenticeships and raising female participation in training by introducing the Women's Vocational Programme (MOLE, 2009). Key recent developments include:

* Increased training infrastructure and seating capacity in both public and private institutions (ITI, ITC, Polytechnics)1with further expansion planned in the 12th Plan period.

* Expansion of the Modular Employability Scheme (MES) under the Skills Development Initiative (SDI) of the Ministry of Labor & Employment (MOLE).

* Diversification of curriculum and programs and a shift towards competency based training linked to National Occupational Standards (NOS) developed by industry through Sector Skills Councils (SSC).

* Stimulation of the private training market through funding of private training organizations through the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).

* Development of the National Urban and Rural Livelihood Missions both of which have significant training schemes likely to impact on the extent of publically funded training.

* Various new schemes of central and state ministries such as MSME, Textiles, Woman & Child Development, Agriculture which have increased the number of training places and encouraged different training and placement models amongst training providers.

* The NSDC STAR scheme which will further stimulate the private training market through a voucher based entitlement for skills certification.

However, despite this expansion there remains a lack of consolidated data on the extent and nature of training places on offer, the total funding allocated to skills training and the outcomes of the different programs.

Challenges to the skills agenda

Despite this significant and growing interest in skills in India there remain significant challenges which restrict the skills system in India and weaken its efforts to promote more and better jobs for young people.

First and foremost, the skills ecosystem in India remains highly contested. Fragmentation of decision-making is evident at both a national level, where 17 ministries and departments are involved in skills development (Planning Commission, 2008), and at regional level, where a similar breadth of structures and responsibilities exist. Whilst a number...

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