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International Youth Day: Is India Upskilling Its Huge Youth Population In The Right Direction?

International Youth Day: Is India Upskilling Its Huge Youth Population In The Right Direction?

27% of India’s 1.3 Bn population is between the age of 10-24 years

Indian government has launched various youth-centric initiatives for skilling and job creation

The government’s core initiatives for the youth population include PMNREGA, Skill India, Startup India, and Mudra Yojana

As the world celebrates International Youth Day, the focus is on India — with its massive youth demographic —  and how it leverages its position in the global labour market. According to the United Nations, India is home to 365 Mn 10-24 year-olds, and a further 67% falls under the bracket of 15 – 64 years of age. 

Given the country’s huge youth population, employability and skilling have become two of the biggest challenges for the country’s growth. In response to which, Indian government has proposed various youth-centric programmes and schemes such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Skill India Mission, Udaan, Startup India, and Mudra Yojana among others. 

Speaking at the fourth anniversary of Skill India Mission, R.K Singh, the minister of state, power, new and renewable energy, and minister of state, skills and entrepreneurship development said the employability factor for Skill India graduates has reached 50%. “We have upskilled over 75 lakh people. The number of ITIs have increased from 9.6K in 2014 to 14.9K today,” he had added. 

Under Skill India Mission, the government claims to have trained 67 lakh people, along with setting up 25K PM Kaushal Kendras across the country for upskilling and training. Further, it claimed in July 2019 that 4.45 Lakh trainees have been given apprenticeship training every year. Further, 1 Cr youth would be enrolled under the Skill India initiative on a yearly basis, the government had projected. 

Further, talking about government’s employability efforts, India’s minister of communications and minister of law and justice, Ravi Shankar Prasad had said that the government is aiming to make India a major export hub of electronics manufacturing. According to the minister, there are currently 121 Cr mobile phones in the country, out of which 60 Cr are smartphones. He also stressed on the fact that these mobile phone factories serve as the major employers of youth. 

Startups Partner Government For Skilling, Training

Various startups and businesses such as McDonald’s, HDFC Bank, Maruti Suzuki, DASSAULT, UrbanClap and Flipkart, have also joined hands with the government to promote the skilling of youth in India. 

Just yesterday, Indian ecommerce major Flipkart has also announced its partnership with National Skill Development Corporation’s (NSDC) Logistics Sector Skill Council (LSC) to train 20K of its delivery partners across the country. The partnership is aimed at certifying the Flipkart’s supply chain workforce in all aspects of product delivery and customer experience. 

Prior to this in April, hyperlocal startup UrbanClap has also partnered with National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) under Skill India to set up training centres, where service professionals will be trained in various skills and also be given work opportunities. UrbanClap will be a key strategic partner under the Skill India Mission, according to the company.

Skill India has set up 15 training centres with UrbanClap, which is part of the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY). Over 10 lakh youth are expected to be trained under this partnership. Currently, with over 20K partners UrbanClap services close to a million customers every month across 10 cities in India.

Further, according to Ravi Shankar Prasad, Startup India has recognised 1900 startups in the country, out of which 750 are technology startups. “Indian youth mentality has changed from being job seekers to job givers,” he added. 

Is Skill India Really A Success?

With the threat of automation on the horizon, the Indian government is looking at tech upskilling of the youth in the country in new-age technologies such as AI/ML, Big Data, virtual reality, 3D printing, and IoT. 

At the Union Budget 2019, the finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman proposed to bring a new education policy which would focus on skill development among technology-intensive sectors such as —AI, robotics and Big Data. And this is a dire need in the Indian context as a recent study said that a mere 3% of Indian engineering graduates have new-age technological skills in areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science and mobile development.

The Skill India scheme was launched under the ambit of Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship in 2015, with a mission to train over 400 Mn youths of India in a wide range of skills. 

Although the government claims that the scheme was a success, a recent study by ORF concluded that 70% of the Indian youth were unaware of the scheme. The lack of awareness of such a scheme in a country where 62% of the population is in the working age group, highlights the failure in the execution of Skill India. 

Among the group of prominent developing nations (BRICS), only India and China have the output per worker below the world average. In the case of India, the output is 77.45% lower and in order to benefit from the potential workforce participation of its massive youth population, India needs to focus on increasing the labour productivity.

If the government is serious about improving the skill sets of the Indian workforce, the awareness of such skilling schemes needs to be improved so that participation from all sections of the society is possible. 

As per a study conducted by DataLabs, the scarcity of high skilled labour in India was one of the biggest hindrances in the business growth of tech-intensive sectors such as deeptech startups in India. These startups are the primary driver of innovation in the Western market, but in the Indian context, the ecosystem for deeptech startups is very nascent. As per DataLabs by Inc42, between 2014 to 2018 the funding in deeptech startups made only a mere 1.45% of the total venture capital poured into the Indian startup ecosystem.

The dreams of India becoming a leading economy in the world can only be achieved if the annual GDP growth rate of the country is in the rage of (9-10)%. A recent study concluded that in order to achieve a sustainable annual GDP growth rate of India need to increase the labour productivity of at least 7.3%, and the focus of this productivity growth has to be across industries like banking, manufacturing, agriculture and fintech. Until then, the fruits of India’s youth skilling efforts in helping realise the potential of its massive young workforce is only a theory.