As economies around the world slowly emerge from the disruptions imposed by Covid, people looking for gainful employment in India are also returning to the labor market in increasing numbers. India’s labor force ranks second behind China, with 41.19 percent of it employed in agriculture and related jobs, 26.18 percent in industry and 32.33 percent in services. Unfortunately, women’s labor force participation has fallen from 26 percent to 19 percent in the decade from 2010, according to World Bank data. Of even greater concern is the latest estimate that female employment in India has fallen to 9 percent over the past two years due to the pandemic.
The size of the labor force rose to 43.72 bn from 42.84 bn in March. Given the enormous labor force in India, those in power must continually focus on job creation and pay particular attention to job creation for women, who can only feel emancipated in the socio-political sphere through economic empowerment. This, in turn, can be facilitated by up-skilling or up-skilling the available or likely to enter the labor market women workforce through various government initiatives.
history in numbers
The International Labor Organization (ILO) says that 81.8 percent of India’s female workforce is employed in the informal economy. Three out of four women in our country do not have a recognized economic activity. It is expected that an estimated 7.5 million women will enter the labor market in the next ten years. So to ensure that a key human resource — almost half of the country’s workforce — is not wasted and is used to boost the national economy by at least 25 percent, the government must focus on skill development for its empowerment.
Union Minister of State Jitendra Singh recently informed Parliament that the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) schemes announced in Union Budget 2021-22 at a cost of Rs 1.97 billion over five years have the potential to 60 lakh to create new jobs. Over 7.22 million jobs have been created in central government ministries or departments since 2014. With only 38,850 new jobs created in 2021-22, the government’s efforts leave a lot to be desired.
Needless to say, the authorities would do well to follow this in word and spirit. The government must work hard to ensure that women entering the labor market are provided with the skills needed to successfully perform their assigned tasks, or that their existing skills are further enhanced to enable them to climb the socio-economic ladder .
It would not be out of place to mention here that the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) requires the government to focus on women in order to facilitate potential entrepreneurs to become self-employed. Under the scheme, which provides collateral-free loans of up to Rs 10 lakh to micro or small businesses and individuals to establish or expand business activities, women could benefit from looser norms to include the maximum beneficiary.
A streamlined institutional mechanism in the form of the National Skill Development Mission, launched in July 2015 under the Department for Skills Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) to ensure the convergence of skills activities across sectors and states – with additional emphasis on the creation of jobs and upskilling of women for their empowerment – will certainly help improve the situation regarding job creation and upskilling and upskilling of women, which is currently skewed against the fair sex.
As the MSDE oversees the nationwide coordination of all efforts to develop skills and eliminate the mismatch between demand and supply of skilled labour, it must engage other related ministries and government agencies in building vocational and technical training frameworks, upgrading skills, and innovating thinking among the female workforce.
Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendra (PMKK), Model Skills Development Training Centers, intends to be established in each district as part of MSDE’s Skill India Mission. These centers need to be strengthened and their operational weaknesses eliminated or addressed. PMKK strives to deliver high quality, industry-focused courses with a focus on employability and creating targeted value for skill development skills training.
The government’s efforts would be in vain if the private sector did not take more women-specific initiatives and increase its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) spending on their upskilling. A 2019 report – Corporate Engagement in Women’s Economic Empowerment – published by the United Nations Development Program in India found that the CSR spending of the 100 largest companies on women’s empowerment was only 4 percent of the total spending of 6,314, accounted for 30 billion rupees.
Keep it up
Following the Covid restrictions, several business groups appear to be working more in this direction. For example, software companies Microsoft and Google have partnered with several state governments to help women acquire industry skills in artificial intelligence, cloud computing, digital marketing, etc. so that they can benefit from Digital India and Skill India initiatives. The two-way partnership is the only way to build the capacity of women, especially from the marginalized parts and rural areas, to ensure their equal participation in the workforce, which according to the International Monetary Fund will boost India’s GDP by 27 percent.
The author is co-founder and CEO of Orane International, training partner of National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), network member of India International Skills Centers, an initiative of GoI. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the point of view of this publication.
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