This isn’t just a catchy headline meant to shock you, though that would be a justified reaction. If you are 25 years old, have graduated from a reputed institute in a traditional higher education discipline and are looking for a job, you may not be handed one on a platter any time soon. You may be cushioned within the famous Indian demographic that is supposed to yield a “dividend”, but unlike what you’ve been reading everywhere, this does not guarantee you employment.
Between 1980 to 2010, 90% of world labour force growth occurred in developing countries and about 500 million new workers emerged in India and China alone (workers went from 260 million to 470 million in India, between this period). India, along with other developing counterparts, is all set to fuel 60% of the global growth in labour in the upcoming years. Keep in mind that enrolment in Indian higher education is only 24% right now. With India attaining almost universal elementary education and increased retention in secondary schools, the projected demand for higher education and jobs thereafter, will only escalate. By 2050, India will be home to more than a billion job seekers. This means providing jobs for over 12 million new entrants annually. There is also the challenge of finding jobs for the backlog, which reached 60 million by 2014. So isn’t this good news? India finally placed on the world map with a solid advantage where labour supply is concerned. Well, it may not all be good news.
The new-age job-seeker must strive to acquire specific skill sets to be considered employable. Currently, only 43% of Indian youth are considered fully employable.
Indian millennials are being touted as the future of jobs and the saviours of the working world. But this won’t hold true if in-demand skills are not imparted to the youth entering the workforce. The world of work is changing and industries are transforming. It’s a fact that we are moving towards a massive labour pool, but we are possibly riding a low-skill, low-wage cycle to get there. The country is on a trajectory that involves a surplus of millions of low-skill workers, whereas most nations, including India, will be increasingly demanding a high-skill workforce.
Most industries are replacing low-skill jobs with high-skill ones. Skills relating to upcoming technologies like cloud computing, social media, artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, etc, are gaining immense relevance. Unfortunately, our education system is not preparing students well enough to enter the workforce as high-skill workers or equipping them with skills in the mentioned emerging domains. Gone are the days when just holding a graduate degree was enough to get employers to clamour to hire you. Education is not enough. The new-age job-seeker must strive to acquire specific skill sets to be considered employable. Currently, only 43% of Indian youth are considered fully employable.
Gone are the days when just holding a graduate degree was enough to get employers to clamour to hire you. Education is not enough.
The positive connotation associated with our demographic shift has been taken for granted and assigned the term “dividend.” But if we don’t strategically harness this change, we could very easily be faced with a demographic disaster. We don’t want to be stuck in a situation where we have too many job-seekers with inadequate skills, and therefore not enough jobs for them. India is moving workers out of farm jobs at a very fast rate, and this will only add to the burden of providing jobs in other sectors.
We need a wake-up call and more concerted efforts towards large-scale skill development and training. We may have a situation of too few high-skill workers and not enough jobs for medium- or low-skill workers. This needs to be rectified by adjusting the education and skilling system to ready ourselves for the jobs of tomorrow.
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