Generally speaking, to reap a dividend one has to first commit one’s confidence and resources to an opportunity. Right now, what India has is a demographic opportunity of becoming the largest contributor to the global workforce in 2030, with a working population of 962 Million. But is India ready to convert that opportunity into dividend? To enhance the mere size of scale with the sheer usefulness of skills? Are we equipped to create and deliver the human capital without which there is no dividend to be had?
These are all questions that have to be addressed today if we have to plan and progress towards our rendezvous with our global destiny in just 15 transitory years.
Current projections based on labor participation and the employment rate indicate that 423 million, or nearly 45% of the employable population in 2030, will not be able to participate in the demographic opportunity due to a skill-set mismatch. Even in the current scenario, the healthy demand for human resources across industry verticals is being stymied by an uninspiring supply that is woefully short on high-skill labor.
The Government of India has already taken a series of steps to correct this talent imbalance, one of which was the launch of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC). The stated ambition of the NSDC is to contribute at least 30% to the overall target of skilling 500 Million Indians by 2022 by providing funding and fostering private sector initiatives in skill development.
But the emphasis on skill development is not a recent phenomenon. There has been a largely concerted effort over the last decade to strategically expand and deepen the academic ecosystem with the objective of enhancing the relevance and quality of education. Beyond those two pertinent and practical goals, there is also the critical issue of ensuring that education becomes socially and financially inclusive.
The focus will therefore also have to be on improving access and affordability so that even socially and financially underprivileged sections of society can aspire to the opportunity that is the demographic dividend.
So then, does this call for a Jan Shiksha Yojna, on the lines of the Jan Dhan Yojna for financial inclusion, to ensure that education is as much about relevance and quality as it is about becoming more inclusive? More on that in my next post.