India has an unemployability problem!! Yes! You heard it right!! More than the unemployment problem, what we face is a major crisis of a majority of India’s graduates being unemployable or lacking the “real world” skills to be absorbed in both the formal and informal economies. Simply put, the Millions of graduates who enter the workforce every year cannot find jobs as they do not have either the hard or the soft skills to make them job-ready. Indeed, a chorus of voices from India Inc., right from NR Narayana Murthy, the icon of the Indian IT Industry to others across the spectrum have been calling attention to what by now is a real problem, where India’s Youth, despite the much-vaunted Engineering, Science, and IT degrees, are unemployable, leading to a Double Whammy of sorts, where jobs are created and then go unfilled, thereby accentuating both the supply and demand sides of the job equation. The only way out of this conundrum is to upskill and reskill India’s graduates to make them employable or, in other words, teach old dogs new tricks.
It is not that India’s policymakers are sleeping over the gargantuan unemployability problem. Indeed, there has been a slew of schemes to target India’s youth, especially those from the Higher Secondary and Vocational Courses to ensure that their technical and interpersonal skills match the needed requirements of employers. Moreover, the government has been focusing on “bridging” the employability gap by enhancing the skills imparted during formal education with additional and value-adding skills, particularly in rural and semi-urban areas. In addition, the NEP or the New Education Policy is a step in the right direction as it addresses India’s unemployability problem, right at the source, by reorienting formal education towards the acquisition of industry-standard skills so that India’s youth are trained in what the Industry wants rather than the skills that are academically sound, yet practically useless. So, these initiatives have been moving in the right direction and we must give them some time to fructify.
However, a larger “disconnect” is in the much-hyped Indian IT Industry where due to automation and the advent of cutting edge technologies such as AI or Artificial Intelligence, millions of software professionals are facing a stark choice of being laid off or having to upgrade their skills in real-time. In addition, even for the entry-level graduates, there seems to be a yawning gap in what the employers want and what India’s teeming Millions of graduates have learnt in college. Leaving aside the very real problem of linguistic and interpersonal or the so-called “soft skills”, many Indian Computer Science and allied courses graduates are falling behind the curve as accelerating technological changes make even the most recent graduates redundant with newer and newer tech skills needed. This is where the real challenge is for the Indian policymakers as the Gold Standard Indian IT Industry needs to be competitive and if it has to move up the value chain, then the quality of human resources too needs to be of global standards.
Having said that, India’s unemployability problem is not confined to the IT industry alone. The problem is far worse among the humungous number of graduates and pre-university-educated youth who are not from the science or engineering streams. Though statistics reveal an alarming drop in the number of such graduates from the arts and humanities courses, there is still a problem of such youth who are both unemployable and unemployed as neither there are jobs nor they are qualified enough to take advantage of the “boom” in the services sector. Ditto for even the youth from the semi-urban areas where no matter the course, they are simply unable to get jobs due to the unemployability problem. This is the reason why Crores of Indian Youth have simply stopped looking for jobs, in a desi style The Great Resignation, as they are discouraged and demoralized. Indeed, one often hears about how Lakhs of Graduate and even Pos Graduate youth have applied for a few clerical and peon posts which shows the “desperation” behind India’s Jobs crisis.
Last, it goes without saying that the spike in social unrest and youth crime is directly related to the unemployability crisis. When India’s youth can’t find jobs, even when jobs are aplenty (though that is not really the case) or can’t be employed even in low value-adding occupations, the result is a cohort of the frustrated and penniless segment, who take to crime and other means to earn the bare minimum that keeps them afloat. The challenge is real and hopefully, the Indian elite realizes that being the fastest-growing major economy also means that youth should also grow along with the economy. While building human capital takes time, targeted interventions aimed at up-skilling and re-skilling can help matters so much so that in five to ten years’ time from now, the Demographic Dividend is realized as otherwise, we would be wasting the potential of India’s youth population and turning it into a Demographic Disaster.
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