“First of all, I would like to congratulate both NITI Aayog and CII for this conference on Jobs and Livelihood creation in India, aimed at bringing out strategies for harnessing the demographic advantage that India is fortunate to enjoy.
As we all know the talent of Indian youth is recognised across the world as evident from the leadership positions many Indians are occupying in well-known global companies. Today when India is the youngest nation, I foresee many more young brilliant minds contributing to the development of humankind both internationally and nationally. But this requires availability of appropriate opportunities to harness their potential in terms of quality education, health facilities and skill training leading to a sustainable livelihood and productive contribution to nation building.
I have been closely associated with various aspects related to youth of the country and I firmly believe that destiny of the nation is charted by its youth. I have worked closely on the agendas of rural and urban development and have attached huge importance to job and livelihood creation through various schemes. There are a number of factors, which account for an individual’s gainful employment, including education, training in tune with industry requirements, social safety net, health facilities and buoyant labour market. While India’s academic system has undergone a massive evolutionary phase, there is a need to strengthen and popularize vocational education system. Education is not only for getting employment, but also for the overall development of an individual.
India’s demographic advantage is an opportunity to access gainful employment through appropriate skilling not just to meet the domestic requirements but also the requirements of the aging economies of the world.
The new India that has emerged is ‘Young India’ with the youth constituting 33 per cent of the total population. This population of the youth presents a great potential for our economy and it is extremely crucial for the country’s growth to effectively harness this demographic advantage.
We have to press home this demographic advantage in the best possible way by building capacities in education and skill training, including hands-on training. Employment promotion is a national priority and contributes not only to increasing production and national income, but also helps in reducing poverty and improving standards of living.
An important way to empower people socially, economically, politically, and culturally is through education. Education is the first critical growth enabler – a pre-requisite for enhanced livelihood opportunities and acquisition of knowledge, enhancement of skills and development of attitudes and values.
While we have considerably expanded our education system and more children and young people are in schools and colleges than ever before, there is clearly a crisis of quality. We still have the largest number of illiterate youth population in the world. The learning achievement surveys at school level show significant learning gaps. The higher education system has a few world class institutes but also a large number of mediocre institutions. The students graduating from our college and Universities do not have adequate employable skills. The quality of education both in terms of the curriculum as well as teaching methodology needs to be focussed upon and improved.
We need to ensure that our youth are ready for the job market. We also need to equip them with the entrepreneurial skills to become ‘job creators’.
Along with quality enhancement, we need to pay attention to equity in access to education. Women and girls, Scheduled Castes and Tribes, differently-abled and minority groups tend to be generally educationally disadvantaged. In a country that has committed to the principle of ‘social justice’, equitable opportunities to education become a crucial first step towards achieving social democracy.
Sisters and Brothers,
Let me now come to a few of the other important critical enablers.
As you all are aware, India has a huge population dependent on agriculture for livelihood. Therefore, increasing the income and the purchasing power of this group is extremely important because growth of a larger economy like India depends on the economic potential and power of this group.
While the Government has embarked on the ambitious task of doubling farmers’ income by 2022, it is important to make agriculture economically viable and attractive. To increase the farmers’ income we need to have an eco system with all the forward and backward linkages. It is important to ensure higher value addition through intensification and diversification.
It is important to make the farmers shift from traditional crops to those which are of higher value and improve post-harvest technology and invest in food processing industry.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), recognised as the largest rural employment scheme and largest public works scheme in the world needs to be effectively implemented.
The Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises (MSMEs) are one of the largest employers and act as a bulwark of the Indian economy by making a major contribution to the country’s GDP.
With massive formalization of MSMEs taking place following demonetization and introduction of GST, I am sure they will play a major role in employment generation and in giving a massive push to the manufacturing sector. We should aim for a substantial growth of MSMEs to ensure that the manufacturing sector contributes 25 per cent of the GDP and India can be counted among top economies of the world in the years ahead.
Skill up gradation plays an important role in enhancing quality and production. I would like to suggest to various industry associations at the national level and in various States to complement efforts of the government in upgrading the skills of the youth in a big way and develop the country into ‘Skilled India’.
I am happy to know that the Government is setting up a model skill centre in every district of the country under ‘Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendras’ (PMKKs) and that 306 such centres have been established for imparting skill training through such centres.
With specific incentives being provided to States under the Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion (SANKALP) programme to help skill disadvantaged populations, I am sure every State will fully avail of them.
Other programmes such as Skill Strengthening for Industrial Value Enhancement (STRIVE), which incentivises ITIs to improve their performance and the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) will also go a long way in developing a ‘Skilled India’.
We need to create skills that are at par with international standards so that our young workers are more mobile and their skills are more sought after in any part of the world. In the past few years the call for a ‘Skilled India’ has led to a formalized structure of the Skilling ecosystem. I very strongly believe that there needs to be greater synergy between various skilling initiatives and above all the Skilling Ecosystem must evolve and adapt as per changing industry requirements.
I urge Industry to become an active player in the process. Industry must see skilling as a tool to enhance productivity and come forward to be a part of the apprenticeship training programme. After all who are we Skilling for? Who will accommodate the millions of people entering the workforce every year? It is the Industry… Even if you are a Start-up and can absorb only a handful of people … doesn’t matter. As an industry you are doing your bit towards the youth of the country and it indeed leaves you with a sense of gratification.
Adoption of new technologies in the form of automation and artificial intelligence bring in new challenges, but also present us with tremendous new opportunities for growth and livelihood creation. Making our youth and the workforce ready for new skills required for the use of new technology is the need of the hour.
All private establishments must be able to develop workforce re-training programs across organization levels. Industries also must come forward to give training and generate employment to youth
Global firms should also be more proactive in transferring technology, creating joint ventures and in aiding local firms. This will enable local companies to compete in core areas of exponential technologies like artificial intelligence, aerospace, semiconductors and robotics.
Exports play an important role not only in propelling the economy, but also in job creation. I feel that there is a vast scope for improvement in this area, both in terms of contribution to the GDP as well as in generating employment. Given the importance of exports in generating jobs, India needs to create an environment in which globally competitive exporters can emerge and flourish.
Though exports declined over 2014-16, they have risen over 2016-17 and are likely to improve with the global trade scenario picking up. The tourism sector too has huge potential to create employment with India being one of the important tourism destinations in the world.
Sisters and Brothers,
I have shared a few thoughts as the possible way forward.
In my view, this is a time of virtually limitless possibilities and opportunities.
The Indian economy is growing at a rapid pace and the fundamentals are strong.
The macroeconomic environment is favourable.
Systemic reforms are taking root.
We must capitalize on this groundswell of transformative changes.
Building a rich human capital, encouraging private investors, focussing on sectors that have greater growth potential and anticipating the future trends in the global geo politics, and preparing adequately to take advantage of the emerging opportunities can make a big difference.
Unemployment and underemployment are formidable challenges.
We need to put our heads together and implement the most effective strategy.
I am hopeful that NITI Ayog will be able to confer with the best minds in our country and evolve a pragmatic time-bound strategy.
I shall look forward to the outcome of this conference with great interest.