Conundrum of India's demographic dividend

Apr 14 2014, 12:56 IST
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Our nation is poised to become the world’s youngest country by 2020, with an average age of 29 years. (AP) Our nation is poised to become the world’s youngest country by 2020, with an average age of 29 years. (AP)
SummaryVocational training, 'learning by doing', soft skills in graduate programmes are remedies.

Our nation is poised to become the world’s youngest country by 2020, with an average age of 29 years. Coinciding with that event, India will account for 28% of the world’s workforce, according to a EY-FICCI report. India stands at a juncture where it can reap unprecedented economic benefits from this falling dependency ratio within the next few decades. However, while our country appears to be churning out hundreds of thousands of students every year who are educated and can fill new jobs, the reality is many of these youth are not ready for the jobs that new age industry is creating. Or they require substantial intervention from employers before they are anywhere near-ready. Bridging the skills deficit is a huge challenge.

Reports indicate that the vast talent pool of the country suffers from either not having the skills to be employable or, in many instances, not being able to signal their availability for jobs matching their skills due to an inefficient marketplace for jobs. This is especially true for blue-collar and low-end white-collar jobs.

Of the five million graduates, only 34% are readily employable, since most lack necessary skills required for any role in any industry, according to an assessment tests done by Wheebox-PeopleStrong in association with CII. Census data released in September 2013 indicated that 63.4% of India’s total population falls in the working age group. According to a study conducted by the National Skill Development Council (NSDC), 12.8 million join the workforce every year, who can be categorised as highly skilled, skilled, semi-skilled or unskilled, with majority falling in the last category. How this issue of employability is addressed will determine whether India eventually experiences a demographic dividend or a demographic nightmare.

According to another study by Aspiring Minds, 47% of graduates are not employable in any sector. Poor knowledge of English and inadequate computing skills are compounded by the absence of even basic domain knowledge for roles and industry that job-seekers hope to join. Learning by doing lies at the heart of making job-seekers better equipped for these jobs. Unfortunately, a vast majority of students prefer dead-end and non-value-adding graduate degree to vocational training.

A reorientation towards vocational training or introduction of strong aspects of “learning by doing” and soft skills in graduate programmes can remedy this situation. As an immediate response, the government is striving to achieve formal/informal skill development of the working population through various initiatives that employ

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