The secret to empowering a powerful behemoth like India lies in understanding and navigating its complex economy.
The picture is fascinating and complex for an economy that is both expanding quickly—it was the world’s fourth-fastest growing in 2016—and is expected to have the world’s youngest population by 2022. Today, 65% of Indians are of working age.
That is a great resource but also raises some concerns.
In 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that while the Indian workforce grows by 12 million each year, only 5.5 million jobs are created annually. And as the fourth industrial revolution advances, new skill requirements will further challenge its youth.
Quality education in India is a privilege for the very few. Primary and secondary education suffer from poor standards and a high drop-out rate. While 35% of Indian postgraduates achieve degrees in the key STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields, according to 2012 OECD figures, these candidates are often hindered in the job market due to limited proficiency in English and a lack of soft skills.
India must make sure that its great talent pool becomes both employable and able to contribute in building a developed nation.
Investment in both high-quality formal and vocational education is the priority, and collaboration among public-private partners is a must.
To thrive in the diverse geographies and political jurisdictions that make up India, we need to cross borders and sectors to tap into new opportunities and to create private-public partnerships by merging the interests of the society with those of business.
The Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2017 (GTCI) developed by INSEAD and the Adecco Group, which measures countries’ ability to attract talent, ranks India 92nd out of 118 countries. India’s lowest scores are in the index’s talent “attraction” category, which is in turn derived from low scores in “business-government relations” and “regulatory systems.” The country ranks 74th in the “grow” (talent development) category with a ranking of 105 in vocational enrollment.
The GTCI 2017 emphasises the key role of connectedness, observing how transformational change is most likely to succeed in a strong ecosystem stemming from close public-private alliances. Collaboration and connectedness must be another key area of focus for India.
One such example of urban-rural sustainability in India is e-Mitra, a project undertaken by the government of Rajasthan and local service providers to deliver e-government services (forms, information, and birth certificates, for example) to citizens. Another comes from the Puducherry government, which announced in late 2016 that its department of information & technology would provide soft-skill training to 5,000 candidates. Conducted in collaboration with the Information Communication Technology Academy, the training will provide candidates with assessment and certification intended to help improve their career prospects.
Similar initiatives in education and upskilling are urgently needed, along with greater collaboration between institutions, school systems, and employers to develop education programmes that fit the needs of the market. Switzerland, Germany, and Austria have managed this successfully—they are the only countries whose youth unemployment figures are at the same level or lower than regular unemployment.
The main reason for this lies in the successful cooperation among stakeholders to design educational paths tailored to shape employable skills and meet specific labour market needs. This applies to both technical and people skills, with the latter learned through work experience and on-the-job interaction.
Eventually, India’s regulatory framework needs to be simpler and more agile if it is to attract investment and create jobs. Its administration is still too fragmented and bureaucratic, placing it at 103 out of 118 countries in the “ease of doing business” variable within GTCI 2017.
This also applies to its labour market, dominated by extremely complex codes that reduce opportunities for new forms of flexible work.
In a country like India with such vast potential and diversity, the creation of an integrated workforce solution that targets multiple areas is key to stable employment growth.
The first step is not just to learn to see India’s problems at face value, but to see how interconnected they are and to tackle them through collaboration and a systemic approach.
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