Opinion

Skill schemes should focus on women

Bornali Bhandari/Ajaya K Sahu | Updated on January 06, 2020 Published on January 06, 2020

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Women in ‘neither in education nor in labour force’ category is large. This must change for India to reap demographic dividend

The youth not in education, employment or training are often targeted for educational and vocational training programmes. India, too, has developed such programmes, particularly the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), the flagship scheme of the Central government.

However, as pointed out in the NCAER Skills Report 2018, titled ‘Skilling India: No Time to Lose’, there are sectoral and gender differences among the youth. Schemes such as the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) are targeted at rural youth. However, a gendered approach is needed in the various educational and training programmes to connect or transition the youth to jobs.

The NCAER report had proposed the framework of Acquiring-Matching-Anticipating framework to resolve the skilling challenge in India. This article extends the work done in the NCAER report by using latest available data, and finds that the conclusions remain broadly the same.

The status of youth (15-29 years) from the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) 2017-18 shows that the youth are either studying (34.5 per cent), working (30.4 per cent), looking for jobs (6.7 per cent), studying and working/seeking jobs (1.2 per cent), or not doing any of the above activities (27.2 per cent). However, there are gender differences amongst the youth.

The percentage of youth pursuing only education had shown improvement between 2011-12 and 2017-18, which was consistent across gender. While 37.1 per cent of the youth was in the labour force, there is a large difference between labour force participation between men (57.1 per cent) and women (15.8 per cent). About 46.8 per cent of the male youth was only working, whereas the corresponding number for females was 12.9 per cent.

These numbers showed deterioration between 2011-12 and 2017-18. Ten per cent of the young males were unemployed — that is, actively seeking jobs — whereas the corresponding number for females was 2.9 per cent. Unemployment rates across gender increased between 2011-12 and 2017-18.

There is a small percentage of youth that is also trying to pursue education and work simultaneously, the share of which has declined between 2011-12 and 2017-18. In the age-group 15-29, 1.5 per cent of males and 0.6 per cent of females were working and studying simultaneously in 2017-18.

Stark contrast

Of the youth aged 15-39, 27.2 per cent belonged to neither in education nor in labour force (NENLF) category in 2017-18. Out of that, 94 per cent were women. As the table shows, 53 per cent of female youth in the age-group 15-29 belonged to the NENLF category. This share had increased from 50.1 per cent in 2011-12.

In contrast, the share of male youth in the NENLF category hovered around 3 per cent in both 2011-12 and 2017-18. The number is even starker if we look at the age-group 25-29, with 71.4 per cent of the females falling in the NENLF category. Irrespective of the macroeconomic conditions, a larger share of young women continue to be in this category.

The PLFS 2017-18 allow us to explore what the youth in the NENLF category are doing. As much as 58.1 per cent of the females in the NENLF category aged 15-29 were doing domestic chores.

And, 59 per cent of the males in the NENLF category were doing other activities, not defined in the PLFS.

What does this inform us about policy? India needs to structure its programmes which enhance opportunities for youth to pursue both education and skilling and work simultaneously. From the perspective of the male youth, the sum of unemployed and NENLF youth (13.2 per cent of young males) should be the focus of policies, especially PMKVY and DDU-GKY programmes.

For them, perhaps a training programme which allows them to study and work — that is, apprenticeships and internships or evening study programmes or skilling programmes provided at clusters — may go a long way in acquiring job-relevant skills. Placement programmes should also form a key component of these.

Shift from domestic chores

The challenge is how one gets 53 per cent of the young females to shift from doing domestic chores to formal education and training programmes and, thereby, jobs.

Along with these programmes, the young women need life skills. While researching for the NCAER Skills Report 2018, it was found that SEWA Bharat offered an illustration of what needs to be done.

The NGO has skilling programmes for females which enhance their confidence, develop their soft skills, and enhance personality along with acquiring vocational skills.

The organisation also offers counselling and mentoring.

Based on the SEWA Bharat principles, a scalable and sustainable approach needs to be developed to address the female skilling challenge, which can offer the package of programmes at the last mile. Secondary schools are the natural channel but the challenge is to get the girls to schools.

Bicycle programmes or dedicated school transport may help overcome the gap. Participation in self-help groups, female youth clubs at the village level, mentorship programmes with educated females in local areas may be channelised in providing soft skills and a well-rounded approach.

India will never achieve its demographic dividend if 27.2 per cent of its youth neither pursue education nor are part of the labour force. A gendered approach in educational and skilling programmes is needed urgently to overcome the employability challenge in India.

The writers are Senior Fellow and Senior Research Analyst, respectively, at NCAER. The views are personal

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Published on January 06, 2020
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