India has more than 750 million people currently between the age of 15-64, and this number is all set to go up to 869 million by 2020. On one hand, we can celebrate the fact that India will be the youngest country by 2020 with an average age of 29. On the other hand, 93% of this population currently belongs to the informal sector and at least 300-350 million (if not more) will need to be skilled appropriately by 2020 to cater to the demands of the industry. The scale of this problem is staggering. Yet, I also see in it a once in a lifetime opportunity for half a billion people to have a better life.
Education and skill-development might well be one of the most self-sustaining ways for millions to come out of poverty. When men and women invest in their own skills, they suddenly see a market which is willing to pay (and in some case pay a lot) for the value they can bring.
A skilled hair-stylist not only gets the satisfaction of being creative and making her client looks good, she can actually earn a decent living out of it. And the more she invests in her own knowledge and skills, the better she gets at her job, and the more choices she has in her career – an appealing virtuous cycle.
So what stops them from doing it in the first place? One, the cost and benefit of investing in education and skills in not concomitant – the cost comes first, the benefits come later. The majority of Indians cannot afford to invest full-time in education for a few years and then move to employment. Sometimes, even if one did that, the returns at the end of it do not seem worth it.
Work-integrated training is one possible solution to this. When a construction worker gets the opportunity to learn advanced masonry, right at his work-site, and continues to earn his wages even as he invests in his skills – suddenly career choices which did not exist earlier open up.
However, we need to remember that skill-development is not a one-time activity (two months of training and a lifetime of career success!) – It is a continuous life-long process requiring an entire eco-system in place. Government, industry, social enterprises, financial institutions, and finally individuals themselves all have important roles to play if we are to make the most of our demographic dividend.
Enabling people’s livelihoods by training them on industry-relevant technical skills has been LabourNet’s continuing mission. We hope to enable 10 million livelihoods by 2020.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.