Smart jobs, not flashy ones

Smart jobs, not flashy ones
By Sumati Rajput

India, the fourth largest economy in the world, is a nation of over one billion people. Despite its global presence and incredible growth story, about 30 per cent of India’s population lives in poverty. While the official unemployment rate stands at about 10 per cent, unofficial rates predict an unemployment figure as high as 30 per cent. If this unofficial figure is true, it would mean that India is home to over 300 million unemployed people, which is coincidently the total population figure for the US.

The interesting story about the unemployment rate is that almost 70 per cent of the unemployed workforce has attained a certain level of education. In the US, only 25 per cent Americans have a higher education degree, and high school drop outs account for about 10 per cent of the total enrolled students every year. Despite these issues, for decades the unemployment rate in the US has fluctuated between a low 4-6 per cent and the increase in this figure over the past three years can reasonably be attributed to the global economic downturn.

While it is not prudent to make a direct comparison between the literacy levels and employment rates of the two countries without accounting for resources, infrastructure, and other social development mechanisms, it is worth wondering what India can do to provide its burgeoning population with adequate means of livelihood.

India has a large agricultural industry. However, with the developing world desperately trying to ape the west, India too has been focusing on developing what are considered ‘flashy’ and ‘sophisticated’ industries, neglecting its agricultural industry which is deemed ‘rural and backward’. Interestingly, there is a movement in the developed world towards an agricultural orientation as awareness about sustainability issues and practices are being popularised. Europe and North America are encouraging urban agricultural practices by way of community gardens, local supermarkets, and the ‘Eat what you grow’ movement.

India has land which is suited to agriculture, a climate which favours it, and, most importantly, historical experience and knowledge about it. However, it does not focus on augmenting agricultural production practices such as the treatment of water and irrigation of land, despite its adequate water resources. This is causing the share of the agricultural output to fall in its contribution towards India’s GDP.

This does not mean that India should refrain from making conscientious efforts towards diversifying its industrial base, but in addition to doing so, it should capitalise on its natural attributes as well. Since India has the requisite human capital, the government should encourage and subsidise research and development for developing smart technology in agricultural practices.

This will generate ‘smart’ employment opportunities in the field of agriculture as well as opportunities at every level as the industry begins to expand and lose its image of being ‘rural and backward’.

The higher education system in India is highly regulated by the government, which leaves little room for any innovation. The most significant change that the Indian education sector requires is to make its population skilled and globally employable by integrating the academic curriculum with Information and communication technology (ICT). India’s educated population lags behind in terms of a basic technological skill set. While India is a booming ICT hub, these skills are only with those who choose to specialise in the field. The population that benefits from this ICT integrated curriculum will be well informed, globally employable, highly entrepreneurial, and specialised.

One of the biggest advantages in emerging economies like India are the unsaturated niche and non-niche markets. This provides opportunities for locals to develop businesses especially because of India’s large market size, its rising standard of living with growing demands for consumption of goods and services, as well as opportunities for innovation through self employment. More importantly, entrepreneurs do not need to have fancy degrees and diplomas; they need to be creative individuals with unique ideas. While India has entrepreneurial opportunities, the majority of its population lacks entrepreneurial skills, and the resources to develop them. Additionally, the Indian mindset is trained to believe that working in a multinational corporate firm is more lucrative than trying to risk one’s resources and time.

In order to overcome these obstacles, the government should make efforts towards strengthening India’s micro, small, and medium enterprise sector.

To support this entrepreneurial spirit, the government needs to adopt a twofold strategy or the ‘4Es’ strategy: entrepreneurial education and entrepreneurial environment.  The Indian education system should incorporate a leadership and entrepreneurship program in the school and college curriculums. India also needs to create an entrepreneur friendly environment.

For India to provide its population with greater employment opportunities it needs to actively work on building its existing assets, skilling its population so that it can be globally competitive, and encouraging its youth to become future leaders by acting on new ideas rather than following established ones.  Furthermore, it needs to keep pace with the globally changing economy without losing sight of its strengths.


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