The road to jobs, particularly better paying jobs, runs through skills training. The equation here is simple - the skilled are more productive and those who are productive ideally should be paid more. Vocational training, therefore, has been the government's priority. This was once again reinforced in Budget 2020, presented by Minister of Finance, Nirmala Sitharaman.
The government proposed to provide about Rs 99,300 crore for the education sector in 2020-21 and about Rs 3,000 crore for skill development. One could argue that this allocation is not enough given the demographic pressures India face. The World Bank's South Asia Economic Focus Spring 2018 report stated that between 2015 and 2025, India's working age population (those above the age of 15) is expanding by 1.3 million a month. India, therefore, needs to create millions of jobs a year. How many millions depends on the employment estimates. According to the World Bank, 50 per cent of the working-age population is at work. India, the report stated, would need to create more than eight million jobs a year to maintain the same level of employment rate. That's the pressure the central and state governments need to brace up to.
The Budget's focus on skilling, nevertheless, is directionally correct.
"There exists a huge demand for teachers, nurses, para-medical staff and care-givers abroad. However, their skill sets, many a time, do not match the employer's standards and therefore need to be improved," the Minister said in her speech. "I propose that special bridge courses be designed by the Ministries of Health and Skill Development together with professional bodies to bring in equivalence. Language requirements of various countries need also to be included. All these should be achieved through special training packages," she added.
Second, the government has identified employment opportunities in construction, operation and maintenance of infrastructure. The National Skill Development Agency, the Minister said, will give special thrust to infrastructure-focused skill development opportunities.
Third, the National Logistics Policy is coming soon. "It will clarify the roles of the Union government, state governments and key regulators. It will create a single window e-logistics market and focus on generation of employment, skills and making MSMEs competitive," Sitharaman said. Logistics jobs include a range, from truckers to warehouse management.
The Minister also underlined the importance of apprenticeship programmes - arguably the best sort of skilling imparted in practical situations. "Students in the general stream (vis-a-vis services or technology streams) need their employability improved. About 150 higher educational institutions will start apprenticeship embedded degree/diploma courses by March 2021," she said.
Sitharaman added that the government proposes to start a programme whereby urban local bodies across India would provide internship opportunities to fresh engineers for a period up to one year. Urban local bodies undertake public works and rookie engineers have an opportunity to brush up their skills.
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