Still coming to grips with joblessness

Debasish Bhattacharyya | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on October 17, 2016

A million aspirations And perhaps as many dashed hopes

The unemployed are a disruptive force. The Centre should bolster existing skill initiatives with a new education policy

“A man willing to work, and unable to find work, is perhaps the saddest sight that fortune’s inequality exhibits under this sun.” Thomas Carlyle, British historian.

We all know that unemployment gives birth to despondency, discontent and distress, but that’s not all; long-term unemployment makes people live their lives in a way they do not wish to. And, therefore, developing employability skills and employing youth become crucial as widespread insecurity, radicalisation, crime and violence engulf the world.

Keeping in mind the scale of joblessness, we are no longer distressed by several lakh job aspirants applying for a few hundreds of junior category posts. Such vacancies requiring primary/secondary school education, more often than not, attract job seekers including those with graduate and post-graduate degrees.

Things are no better for job opportunities in organised sectors. Another huge challenge confronting India is amelioration of the plight of those in informal or unorganised sectors.

Across the globe

The economic dilemma of young people is a global phenomenon. But, in India which is feted as an ‘emerging economy’, the already acute problems of unemployment and underemployment might worsen in the coming years. In other words, overcoming the aspirations of youth is one of the major challenges the country is faced with.

A degree may once have been a passport to suitable employment but in the topsy-turvy world of jobs these days, even an advanced degree can’t protect people from losing their jobs.

A Unesco report released recently underscores India will achieve universal primary education by 2050, universal lower secondary education in 2060 and universal upper secondary education in 2085.

While 60 million children in India receive little or no formal education; the country has over 11.1 million out-of-school students in the lower secondary level, the highest in the world.

Young people’s choices, capabilities and prospects have profound impacts not only on their own lives, but also on their societies. There are two critical components involved. One, inadequate learning facilities, and the other abysmal job creation. Addressing these issues are critical.

The ‘skills gap’ issue pertaining to the poor quality of learning in country’s education centres seems to lend credence to the fact that many of those places are ill-equipped to train those keen on a better career, for a better future for themselves and their families.

While entrepreneurs and industrialists across the country keep talking about ‘skills gap’, skill training alone would not solve the issue unless there is positive industrial growth leading to job creation.

Jobless, aimless

According to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report between 1991 and 2013, the size of the ‘working age’ population increased by 300 million, of which the Indian economy could provide work for only 140 million. The report said that by 2050, at least 280 million more people are expected to enter the job market in India.

Whether it’s insurgency in the North East, Maoist militancy, unrest in Jammu and Kashmir J&K or protests for reservations in government jobs, joblessness is a central issue. And such a situation is best described by Kaushik Basu who tweeted: “The erosion of jobs is like climate change. It happens slowly and so makes no news but its impact can be devastating.”

Central government initiatives to offset the crisis are not wholly convincing. The Human Resource Development Ministry is yet to finalise the new education policy. Given the urgency of the situation, the process should have been expedited as the policy was last overhauled in 1992, almost 25 years back.

The new policy is reportedly considering providing employable skills in secondary and higher education.

What’s to be done

The Centre has launched ambitious programmes like Make in India, Digital India and Skill India to help create jobs as also further a knowledge-based economy.

The following points, however, seem important.

I. Unwavering commitment towards the programme and drawn up polices. It will help work things out. It’s primarily due to Singapore’s longest-serving Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s commitment that the country has just 2 per cent unemployment and holds the 3rd position in the global education league.

II. Developing strategy for accountability-based project implementation. Experts and faculties from IITs and IIMs and other autonomous institutions to be roped in for time-bound audit of project implementation.

III. Youth involvement — Government may consider having ‘Children’s Parliament’ like the one in Bhutan. It doesn’t have a prime minister and parties. But the members will be able to submit the proceedings of their parliament to the speaker of the national assembly, the prime minister, the opposition leaders and other senior officials.

It would allow children the opportunity to voice their ideas, thoughts and feelings; so that their concerns and opinions can be listened to and included in our social and political landscape.

IV. If ‘Skill India’ is to turn into a significant initiative, there must be an ecosystem in place connecting learning institutions, teachers and trainers, industries and policy makers. And, each constituent with definitive role is likely to contribute in building synergy to push through the movement sustainably.

V. On the innovation front, we can think of taking cue from other countries. For instance, professional training school for circus artists in Philadelphia, United States which is set to open in next year. Such an effort could help revive circus industry in India creating employment opportunities in entertainment industry at large.

VI. Apart from enhancing institutional capacity building framework, what is fundamental is strict monitoring of teacher & trainer training techniques, market driven skills training and retraining manual — all aimed at creating enabling environment with deep systemic challenges.

For a democracy, prolonged youth unrest is the greater danger. There are reasons to worry as youth unrest is too stiff a wind to sail against for very long.

The writer is former general manager at International Centre, Goa

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Published on October 17, 2016
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