Catalyzing Employability through Infra, Social and Rural Development Projects

With 65% of India’s population composed of youngsters facing job deficit, our demographics dictate that infrastructure, social and rural development projects can be one the important role models for solving our humungous job crisis, ensuring a decent livelihood for an additional 120-150 million young people over the next decade, argues S. K. Khanna.

Undoubtedly, the last few years have witnessed the pace of job creation woefully short of demand leading to almost a job famine in the country. This has belied the hopeful expectations of millions of youth who were promised creation of 1 crore jobs a year. No wonder due to this more than 3 crore unemployed youth and over 2 crore under- employed youths are feeling betrayed. Workforce in the country has grown rapidly, but job creation has failed to keep pace. While 26 millions joined the work force only 1.5 million jobs have been created in the last 12 months.

Almost half -way through an ambitious scheme to train 6 millions young people initiated by National Skill -Development Enterpreneurship in 2016, the scheme has failed to make an impact due lack of synergy between various stakeholders denting the job creation efforts. There is no taker of skill ministry’s claim that in the last 17 months it has placed 3,18,000 youths in jobs and self –employment.

Job creation data contested

Catalyzing Employability through Infra, Social and Rural Development Projects
There are strong signals of disenchantment across the country that nothing positive is happening despite promises. Whether job creation and employability in the country has gone up or dipped down continues to be the subject matter of heated debates. Job creation data projected by agencies like NSS, the Labour Bureau, EPFO and the government claim that Mudra Loans scheme has created ample job opportunities in the country have been contested by the experts and the economists. There are reports that during 2017, just 64,000 jobs were added against 87,000 of last year. The specter of job crisis has forced hundreds and thousands of young graduates and post- graduates to apply for class IV jobs causing consternation and anxiety in the country. This has no doubt put the government policy making and implementation bodies in a tight spot. Based on latest feedback outcomes, job creation issue is getting harder and harder and with the time running out and something concrete needs to be done to resolve the issue.

As a matter of fact, job creation and employment have been the prickly issues for all the governments but nothing worthwhile has been done to create a suitable metric for job growth. Stung by the nationwide criticism of government lackluster and laid back approach on employability, the government of late has shifted its gears to focus more on infrastructure, rural and social sectors with higher employability elasticity to catalyze massive job creation.

Champion Sectors

To give a double digit level boost to job creation, the government has identified 10 “Champion Sectors” and has created a dedicated fund of Rs.5kcrore to address and promote inclusive employment in order to generate jobs. These champion sectors are regarded beacons of job creation. These include capital goods, auto and auto components, construction and construction equipment, aerospace, manufacturing, textiles, food processing and renewable energy, roads and railways.

The infrastructure ministries have been directed to draw up reports detailing the number and nature of jobs that budgetary allocation will generate in their sectors so as to help adopt a targeted approach to job creation. The ministry for road transport has stated that it is ready with draft on jobs that ministry’s total outlay of Rs.1.32 lakh crore would create. National carrier Indian Railways is launching its one of biggest recruitment drives to hire 89,000 employees, including loco pilots, technicians, workers and helpers. Ministries such as urban housing, education and rural development and others have also embarked on similar exercise. Labour Bureau is to assess the number of self-employed created under the Mudra Yojana.

Construction sector which is one of the largest employment generators has been asked to gear itself up for approximately 76.5 million workers needed by 2020 and move swiftly to new technical platform to improve the viability of construction sector. Professional bodies associated with it have asked to enhance its technical capability to adopt the emerging new technologies and processes.

Rural development projects promoting construction of rural roads and rural housing are likely to give momentum not only to rural construction employability but generate income from non-farming activities for the rural economy.

Job crisis gets international attention

India’s job creation problem has attracted international attention. Both the World Bank and the International Labor Organization have pointed out to the need for creating quality salaried jobs in the country stressing that good number of jobs and suitable employment opportunities –led focus would ensure not only that growth is inclusive but also sustainable.

According to the latest Economic Census, currently there are 13 crore employees in the country, 2.4 crore in the organized sector and 10.5 crore in the unorganized sector.

Changing Employment scenario

Employment scenario in our country as in other developed countries is changing fast. The jobs that were in demand a few years back are not the favorites now and two-three hence, 90% of the youth today are working in informal sector and industry is witnessing a big transformation. For quick staff solutions the organizations are increasingly resorting to hire temporary hands to meet deadlines and cut costs. In the recent past, the contract staffing in vogue in the manufacturing employing casual workers has extended its coverage in other sectors. With the boom in other sectors, contract staffing is gaining more importance and popularity among workers and organizations because of volumes generated. This according to experts will be the fundamental game changer of the future work place and job market. As per discussion at the recent Global Business Summit held at New Delhi and attended by the captains of industry in India and abroad, “in the days to come future jobs and skills in India and elsewhere are expected to be created in the home grown MNCs, micro, small and medium enterprises and infrastructure entities promoting industrialization.

Industry 4.0 phase

Our country like advanced countries has entered the crucial Industry 4.0 phase- the Fourth Industrial Revolution. While the first Industrial revolution was triggered by the invention of steam engine in late 18th century, the second by electricity and power in early 20th century and the third driven by computers, digital technology and the internet in late 20s. Industry 4.0 phase has been triggered by new technologies and processes and jobs related to them, replacing the traditional jobs. The fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) is driven by the new technologies and practices that will significantly transform industrial and business landscape. We cannot afford to bypass Industry 4.0 phase. The new technologies under Industry 4.0 phase include3D printing, sensors, advanced robotics, IoT, simulation, augmented realities, Artificial Intelligence and advanced Analytics and others… Many Indian companies have started exploring applications of Industry 4.0 in their operations. The major challenges include availability and access to talented scientists, technicians and engineers and absence of a strong technology provider ecosystem, infrastructure facilities to re-skill and up -skill the existing workforce. Many new jobs are being created in the digital automation and market place and job market with 960 MNCs and others in the country hiring well versed personnel in these skills. Hiring in these disciplines has increased by 20% in 2017 but the trend is yet to firm up before seeing a linear growth in job creation.

Inaugurating Nasscom’s Future Skills platform, the PM has urged the salaried class to reflect on changing nature of jobs in the backdrop of increasing adoption of artificial intelligence and automation among corporate and the need for re -skilling, training and retraining on emerging technologies. “We need to ensure that our existing workforce is also able to re skill, as the new technologies emerge”, he added. The online platform inaugurated by the PM is expected to train 40 lakh IT employees and also those in other employees in emerging technologies and prospective young job seekers

Fear of Job losses

New technologies have no doubt created a concern and fear of job losses, but it should not scare us. According to World Bank assessment though 77% of jobs in India are vulnerable to new technology regime, but the new regime will ramp up productivity and fuel growth, which in turn would create newer jobs compensating the job losses, it adds.

The challenge for the young job seekers will remain skewed with evidence available that restricted labour laws and regulations have prevented flow of full potential benefits of productivity output and job generation. Therefore, there is an urgent need to reform our existing labour laws and create an enabling environment to facilitate healthy growth of flexible labour market in response to market conditions for job generation and its growth.

Conclusion

As part of the new integrated infrastructure and social planning model, the Budget 2018 has given a massive push for improvement of infrastructure including significant capital expenditure for roads and highways construction, railways, airports, ports and power projects. As per budget analysis, these infrastructure redevelopment projects and social welfare schemes can generate at least five million jobs every year absorbing nearly half of the 10 million people who annually enter the country workforce. These projects are gaining traction and as they move closer to execution and implementation they will not only help promote business, trade and commerce but will create more jobs directly and indirectly imparting employment a big leap for the youngsters.

Recent dramatic rebound in GDP numbers at 7.2 percent, the fastest in the last five Quarters with strong showing in manufacturing growing at 8 percent, agriculture at more than 4 percent, construction at 6.1 percent and service sector and capital goods sector growing at an all time high augurs well for the dormant job market.

In the next few months there should be a sharp and sustained focus on incentivizing employment generation opportunities. If the pace of job creation is not accelerated and jobs deficit remains, the critical demographic advantage we enjoy today could become a demographic liability and a constant pain in our neck in the near and distant future. It is both an opportunity as well as a challenge to constructively harness the demographic advantage and empower our growing aspiring youth to avail and exploit emerging opportunities to earn their decent livelihood, whether through jobs in large, medium, small enterprises or self-employment following ongoing developmental projects in industrial, urban, rural, social and infrastructure sectors.
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