As India’s demographics grow younger, the issue of sustainable employment raises its ugly head. This coupled with the volatile economic growth that the country is currently going through, springs up a challenge for the industry. At the recently held sixth HR summit, experts from the corporate world gathered on a common platform to discuss—creation of productive jobs and the sectors that need to be developed in order to leverage and create ample opportunities. Industry experts put their money on a number of alternatives that will help generate a decent livelihood for the youth. Of the country’s approximately 500 million workforce, 14 per cent is in the formal economy and 86 per cent is in the unorganised sector. However, this 86 per cent is not well-trained or recognised in the job market, say experts.

Dharmakirti Joshi, chief economist, CRISIL Ltd, who spoke at the summit, said, “Thanks to the stereotypical perceptions towards certain jobs, a vast amount of skilled labour is caught in the wrong job resulting in high attrition rate.” He further suggested that blue collar jobs like that of a plumber and electrician actually get paid more as compared to the good jobs where the remuneration was not necessarily high at all levels.

Referring to the obsession of sticking firmly with the organised sector, K Ramkumar, executive director, ICICI Bank Ltd opined that “a one-sided approach would not help”. The key according to him, and all other panellists, lay in “making the jobs in the unorganised sector attractive and free of stereotypes, so that graduates would opt for them.”

Emphasising the benefit of entrepreneurship Ramkumar suggested that proper training and mentoring could create self-employed professionals. He also criticised corporate for hiring graduates at poor salaries and “taking them for granted”.

Most of the panellists confessed to ignoring the Apprenticeship Act 1961. “Almost 90 per cent of the companies don’t opt for engaging apprentices although it is a key step in training manpower for the industry,” commented Ramkumar.

Coordinator of the discussion, Anil Sachdev, founder, School of Inspired Leadership (SOIL), said, “Statistics bring to light a harsh reality. A surplus human resource needs to be tapped effectively.

Corporate must wake up and ask the question—what can we do to tap the surplus manpower? And who is going to solve this problem?”

While agreeing that employing 10 million every year was an enormous task, NIIT chairman Rajendra Pawar said he would treat this as an opportunity. Sectors like textile and food processing had the potential of giving more sustainable employment since they used renewable resources, he said. Leo Puri, managing director, UTI Asset Management Company Ltd, agreed with Pawar. He said, “There is a limit to the number of jobs that IT, finance and retail can create.

These sectors enjoyed their boom time, but the bubble will not last for a long.” In order to employ the vast workforce, a diversified outlook is required. “India is still a pariah when it comes to the manufacturing sector. With its capacity to create 40 to 50 per cent of jobs, the sector can be a catalyst to create employment,” said Puri. Ramkumar presented a global view on the problem of tackling surplus manpower. “Even developed countries of the world have not been able to create 10 million jobs.

This is true of even China—the go getter,” he said. Pawar summed the issue of handling manpower surplus with an analogy used by Nicholas Negroponte, author of the best seller “Being Digital” in connection with Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Centre of Bits and Atoms. Unlimited in nature, Bits is a product of the human mind, unlike an atom, which is a natural entity and is limited. “In a post industrial era, we need to use the human mind to create Bits. The economy of Bits will be an economy of abundance,” he signed off.

Food for Thought

  • Investment policies in different sectors must be revisited with a focus on creating jobs
  • Encourage entrepreneurship in areas in which the capital expenditure is low, for example Handicrafts, toy making and other
  • Encourage graduates to take up teaching as a profession. This will also help to fill in the demand for primary teachers in the country
  • Focus not only on graduates but also on skilled class 10 and 12 drop-outs, who can be instrumental in driving the workplace
  • Why focus only on English-speaking employees? India being a diverse country people with regional language skills should not be marginalised from the workforce.

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