Sunday, July 22, 2012

Govt targets skill building to reduce youth unemployment

While there are several macroeconomic issues plaguing the Indian economy, there is one very pressing concern that needs to be attended to with utmost urgency. Or else the long term ramifications would be disastrous for the country. We are referring to nothing but education and skill training. The statistics will tell you why we cannot afford to ignore this sector. Of India's 1.2 bn population, 65% is under the age of 35 years. And in fact, 54% of the population is under the age of 25 years. It must be noted that in both- absolute and percentage terms- these numbers are the highest. In other words, India is set to have the highest working population in the coming times. A huge work force bodes well for the economy. But only if it is educated and skilled!

Though India's enrolment rate is robust at 96% for entering primary schools, the story then on is not very encouraging. Only 20% of the population tends to complete primary education. The number for secondary and tertiary education dives down to 1.3% and 3.1%, respectively. The gross enrolment rate of 13.5% for higher education is among the lowest in the world. This means that a huge chunk of young populations enters the workforce with poor education and skill sets. How can such an unskilled workforce translate into a democratic dividend? It is because of these reasons that in recent years, policymakers have started laying great emphasis on education and skill development. The National Skill Development Mission (NSDC) has set a target of skilling 500 million people by 2022. This is indeed a mammoth task and will require public-private partnerships. Due to the large-scale poverty in the country the government has made education free, a constitutional right. Though the government spends about Rs 5,000-6,000 per student for 10 years or more, an additional amount needs be spent on skill development. This could help make many unemployed youth employable.

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