India is on the threshold of growth and development and is poised to become the third-largest economy of the world by 2030. As the fastest growing economy today, India is also home to 34.33% share of youth in total population in 2020. In which half of its population of 1.3 billion is below the age of 25, and a quarter is below the age of 14. India’s young population is its most valuable asset and most pressing challenge too. It provides India with a unique demographic advantage. But this opportunity is also endangered to be lost without proportionate investment in human capital development. As India undergoes rapid and concurrent economic, demographic, social and technological shifts, it must ensure that its growth is inclusive and is shared by all sections of the society.
While India was running pillar to post in making the trillion dollar economy’s dream into reality, the corona horror has derailed the momentum of work. The Covid-19 pandemic is going to change many things and create a new normal. Along with the whole world, India, today has gone more delusional and uncertain than ever before after the massive COVID disaster. And when big, convulsive economic events like COVID-19 happen, the implications and long-term impacts tend to take years to play out. COVID-19 and the nationwide lockdown has resulted in humongous job loss.
Data from CMIE’s Consumer Pyramids Household Survey reveals that youngsters (20-24 years) accounted for 8.5% of the total employed persons in the country, in 2019-20. However, they accounted for 11% of those who lost jobs. Over 1.3 crore youngsters lost their jobs in the lockdown. Another 1.4 crore jobs were lost in the age-group of 25-29 years.
Although the suggested numbers are alarming, but even before the Covid crisis, unemployment had been a big concern for the policy makers of India. COVID-19 has only aggravated the situation widening the youth-job gap leading to massive job losses and furloughs. This shall have profound impact over youth of the nation and they are anticipated to bear the brunt more harshly.
As an emergency short term solution to the youth gone into oblivion with the pandemic and its subsequent repercussions, the government can provide a loan relief package, deferring the loan repayment for unemployed graduates by at least two years. The second intervention would be to focus on ramping up our skills training and vocational training initiatives. While India is struggling to find employment for its youth, companies are struggling to find people with the right skills.
Government of India has shown a promising paradigm change in its education model through NEP 2020, trying to maintain low unemployment rates with Vocational Education and Training (VET) programs inculcated within the curriculums.
In the long term, we need another paradigm shift in our education system, where they need to emphasize on critical thinking, creativity, communication skills, and emotional skills (EQ). Our rural education centers lack quality, as suggested by ASER report, only 25% children enrolled in Class V could read simple English sentences, and only 26.1% of children enrolled in Class V could do basic arithmetic.
There are several inspiring ways in which youth-led enterprises are innovating to support their communities to combat coronavirus and improve the situation. Youth-led enterprises are fighting misinformation, mobilising community action and facilitating relief action to protect the vulnerable and developing innovative new products and services. While youth are carving their path amidst the crisis, government has also facilitated the support through many means.
In a recent address in a post on LinkedIn, PM Shri Narendra Modi’s, appealing for developing business models that attach primacy to the youth, said, “India, a youthful nation known for its innovative zeal, can take the lead in providing a new work culture. Rather than playing catch up, India must be ahead of the curve in the post-Covid-19 world. Let us think about how our people, our skill sets, our core capabilities can be used in doing so.”
As per one of the media reports, approximately 1000 foreign firms are viewing India as an alternate manufacturing hub, considering huge skilled man power, cheap resources and manufacturing costs available. Industry dynamics are also turning favorable to India. This is an optimistic scenario based on India’s resilience to the pandemic so far, its young population, and availability of manpower at all levels, all of which might drive growth for a lot of industries. The government has also already the upfront task of coming up with a stimulus to start-ups and MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) which will play a crucial role in reviving the economy.
Government and nonprofits are urging people to reskill and upskill themselves to find new jobs as per new post Covid scenario. This shift shall be imminent. An accidental by-product of the lockdown is that digital adoption has increased multifold in India. While the ride ahead may not be smooth – the seeds sown today will reap an exponential harvest for youth even in remote locations looking for jobs. People were forced to learn new ways of conducting businesses, procuring essentials, and finding entertainment. In the coming few years, we shall witness the effects of this exponentially larger digital user base across every sector.
Work from home revolution is a surprise boon for India’s women too hence proving post Covid-19 scenario as blessing in disguise, creating huge scope of employability and empowerment for our youth. Re – equipping themselves with skills, information and optimism, youth needs to gear up for brighter days ahead. We need to recognize and respect the youth as the catalyst of change, and allocate resources to support, amplify, and extend their impact. Active and sustained participation of the youth shall be imperative for the development of an inclusive, vibrant and empowered India.