Challenges of ‘skilling’ India

By KN Pathak , New Delhi
04/01/2017   0 Comments

India enjoys a demographic dividend where more than 60 percent of its population is in the working age group. The youth bulge presents an opportunity for India to enhance its growth and also supply skilled manpower to the rest of the world. According to a World Bank report, this is because India’s working age population will be more than the dependent population for at least three decades till 2040. 
The National Higher Education Commission in its report has estimated that by 2020 the average age of Indians will be 29 years as against 40 years in the USA, 46 years in Europe and 47 years in Japan. It is also estimated that during the next 20 years, the labour force in the industrial world is expected to decline by 4%, while in India it will increase by 32%.

However, India is facing a paradoxical situation where on the one hand young men and women are looking for jobs and on the other industries are complaining of unavailability of appropriately skilled manpower. This paradox reflects the criticality of skill development to enhance the employability of the growing young population and also to gear up the economy to realise the target of faster and inclusive growth. However, keeping in view the heterogeneity of the labour market and also the preponderance of the unorganised sector; designing a model which should benefit the key players of the ecosystem – the employer, the training provider, the trainee and the Government – is a challenging task.

It is a known fact that 93% of the total labour force is in the unorganised sector of India. Thus, the major challenge of skill development initiatives is also to address the needs of a vast population of Indians by providing them skills which would make them employable and enable them to secure decent work leading to improvement in the quality of their life.
The National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015 supersedes the policy of 2009. This primarily aims at meeting the challenge of skilling at scale with speed, standards (quality) and sustainability. According to the India Labour Report, 12.8 million new persons join the labour market annually vis-à-vis the current capacity of skill development which is 3.1 million in our country.
It is estimated that incremental HR requirement for skill development in the period 2012 to 2022 for the whole country is 12.03 crore. Hence there is pressing need to expand the infrastructure for skill development manifold to cater to the target which is more than four times the present capacity. As a mid-term strategy, 104.62 million fresh entrants to the labour force between 2015 and 2022 will be required to be skilled/provided vocational education.
At present 21 ministries and departments of the Government of India are engaged in the skill development programme.


There are several challenges which have been identified in skill development of the Indian youth. For instance, increasing the capacity of the existing system to ensure equitable access for all and at the same time maintaining their quality and relevance are a big challenge. This involves strong and effective linkages between industry and trainer institutes with adequate provisions for constant knowledge upgrading of the trainers. Creating an effective convergence between school education and governmental efforts in the area of skill development also needs to be reworked.

All this has to be in consonance with the Labour Market Information System. Other challenges include the creation of an institutional mechanism for research development, quality assurance, examination, certification, affiliation and accreditation. Needless to say that efforts should be on to make the skill development attractive and productive to motivate the youth to aspire for it.

Addressing the above challenges, the Government has taken some concrete steps which include dovetailing and rationalizing Central Government schemes on skill development in order to achieve maximum convergence and make skill development an integral part of the schemes. All Government schemes now have a component which takes care of skill development as per the programme’s requirement.  Skill gap studies conducted by the NSDC for 21 high growth sectors of the country will project the human resource requirement in those sectors by 2022.

Monitoring and evaluation is the spine of any development plan. Since the National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship has been structured as an outcome-oriented policy, it has been decided to set up a Policy Implementation Unit (PIU) for reviewing the implementation of various initiatives and for undertaking corrective measures under this policy. For bringing improvements in the scheme through the feedback, provision has also been made to facilitate constant consultation with the stakeholder.  To ensure that the desired results are achieved on this account, it is necessary that along with monitoring, a quick evaluation of the programme is undertaken at the earliest possible. Based on evaluation findings, we would be able to take effective measures and breach all the gaps in the implementation process.

(The author is a former Joint Adviser of the Niti Aayog. He is also an independent researcher and writes on socio-economic issues. The views expressed in the article are personal.)


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