In his last “Man Ki Baat” the monthly radio program when our prime minister exhorted the youth to utilize their summer vacation in getting new skills and experiences, once again I got impressed by his vision and the way he engages with the common people. I like the intention and vigor with which the government is pushing “Skill India” initiative. However off late I have started feeling that the existing model of refining the skills and creating skilled individuals won’t be effective in the long run. Existing Skill India movement will mostly create “Low Skill Workers” who will be able to perform simple entry level and process driven tasks. And this is the segment which has the greatest risk from robotic process automation. If India chooses to be dependent on manual work for the sake of creating employment, then I am afraid that the margin by which we are lagging from the developed countries will increase further.
Earmarking Rs. 17,000 crores specially for boosting ‘Skill India Mission’ is a welcome move. But if this amount is going to be invested largely in generating low skill workers in IT, BPO or manufacturing domains then the very purpose of creating efficient India would be defeated in the long run. The fact that close to 10 million youth enters the workforce every year and supply of jobs is nowhere near to absorb this demand is a matter of great concern. But a greater worry is the unemployability of these unemployed youths.
I don’t deny the genuine efforts government is putting for job creation but I got perplexed when Minister of IT, Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad categorically denied any massive job cuts in the IT Industry. He said it when IT unions in Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad were protesting the alleged illegal lay off by a few IT companies like Cognizant.
Naukri Job Speak Index- April 2017 highlights 11% fall in new jobs in overall job market and IT-Software industry is the most hit. Report mentions that top IT firms laying off its professionals and the IT-software industry saw a 24% fall in hiring. Hiring activity saw a fall in Telecom, BPO, Insurance and Construction sectors during Apr’17 as compared to Apr’16.
Rather than shrugging the shoulders, it’s the time that this mounting challenge of sustainable job creation is taken super seriously. Creating low skill workers will help for a few years but then we will face far bigger and worst form of job losses due to automation and protectionism.