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Job search for a digital India

By Devika Kher

It is IT that has the potential to connect each and every citizen of the country.

The Prime Minister in his Independence Day speech brought wider attention to the idea of having digital India work for the poor. His emphasis on using Information technology to drive development will be a boost for those ideas that seek to use an IT led approach to bridging the developmental divide. One area where this can be implemented effectively and efficiently is by changing how the job search works in rural areas.

The space for job search is dependent on three factors- skill (What one can do), location (Where it can be done) and revenue (How much will it earn?). With the advent of Internet, the answers for the three questions are available on online job portals. Websites like of Naukri.com and Times Job have created single platforms to enable employees meeting  employers. This has led to a multifold reduction in the time, energy and money spent in job hunting, or to use an economic jargon, has reduced the ‘search cost’ multifold.  But in order to enjoy these fruits of Internet technology, every individual requires an exposure to the advances of the IT. This is where the rural India is far behind the urban counterpart.

The foundation for providing digital exposure to the poor has already been laid by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT). The Department of Electronics and Information Technology under MCIT has created Common Service Centres (CSC) with one of the provisions being an IT terminal at village level. However, in order to change the space for job search in the rural ends of the country, we need more than just the infrastructure. We need a drastic change in the mindset. We need to create awareness as well as a will to change the perception of job search.

All of this is to be done with the ultimate goal of making job search as costless as possible.  The scope for the change is not only to reduce information asymmetry  regarding urban jobs but also about the jobs in rural districts. To begin with, the prime beneficiaries of this intervention would be the skilled and semi-skilled labour with adequate knowledge to access Internet. The benefits can then percolate as the skill enhancement initiatives by various NGOs and governmental organisations attains broader base.  The extensive use of online portals would help broaden the choice for both employer and employee and would help in smoothing the process of wage settlement.

This drastic change in “the way things are done” can be understood and implemented using Kurt Lewin’s three step process for change. Kurt Lewin, popularly known as the father of modern social psychology, made important contributions to study of organisational development with the change process being one of his most famous works. Lewin used the analogy of changing the shape of a block of ice to describe the change in the organisation structure. Appropriately enough, he called the three stages as- Unfreeze, Change and Freeze.

In case of changing the pattern for job search, the Unfreeze stage would essentially include breaking down of the status-quo, which in the given case is the cumbersome and corrupt process of application for jobs and the negative effects of a grapevine communication currently substituting for a formal setup. This can be brought about by creating awareness about the advantages of accessing mobile and Internet services in the process of job search within the rural ends of the country. A strong campaign can be made to promote the use of online portal and highlight the advantages of the use of a common platform for job seeking. The main focus in this stage would be to convince the population about the need to change which would pave way for a change in the outlook.

During the stage of Change, the political-socio-economic setup can be altered such that more people start opting to the new way of job hunting. This would require a dedicated effort by the government authorities such as Ministry of Human Resource Development, Ministry of Communication and Information Technology etc. to work towards creating platforms for promoting endeavors which would help reduce the fixed employment cost faced by the employers and search cost confronted by employees.

Along with the government authorities the private players in the market such as Naukri.com can expand their database to accommodate the information regarding the jobs in the rural ends as well. The rise in the number of users of the online portal would create network economies by expanding the scope of information available. Hence, time and communication would play a vital role in bringing about the much required change in the entire process of job search.

Finally, in the Freeze stage, as the modes adopted for job search would alter for good, the government and private players can spend their energy in creating a framework which could incorporate the changes in the most efficient manner. An important consideration in this stage would be to identify the barriers and support system of the altered process so as to sustain the change within the system. For instance, a significant area of concern would be creating a structure to ensure the robustness and the efficiency of various modes of technology used within the framework. A system would have to be made to keep a check and bring appropriate changes to the developed framework as and when required.

These three steps can be seen as the guiding principles for the new government in order to attain the dream of a digital India in at least the very basic hurdle of job search.

Devika Kher is a Research Associate at the Takshashila Institution.

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Skill development in India

Skill development in India is a cross-departmental issue that needs concurrent engagement in multiple dimensions.

Many factors are attributed to the sluggish growth of skill development sector in India. But this is not an India-centric phenomenon. Industry experts and policy academicians have been forewarning the world governments for long about an impending skills mismatch epidemic. There are two reasons, which are of primary concern. First, the demographic dividend is becoming unfavourable and second, there is an employability deficit in terms of what the education institutions provide in the curriculum and what the industry actually requires. The former is prevalent in developed nations while the latter is prevalent in developing nations.

A McKinsey report released last year projected that global labour force strength will be 3.5 billion by 2030. The report states that India could face a surplus of low-skilled workers in the tune of 27 million and deficit in the medium-skilled workers to the tune of 13 million. This implies that more people could be trapped in subsistence agriculture or in urban poverty as we move into the mid-term review of our 12th Five year plan. India’s workforce today stands at nearly 472.9 million. India and has nearly 340 million adults without work-relevant skills and in need of training. Between 2010 and 2030, India would have 27 percent of the world’s share of tertiary educated labour force.

The story is that we are going to have a deficit of medium skilled labour and surplus of low skilled labour. A developing country like India needs both the export-oriented manufacturing sector and consumption-driven domestic market for a balanced economic growth. Both, though are related. Domestic markets become resilient with increased consumer expenditure, which in turn increases with a rise in real wages. Real wages will increase, among other factors, with greater labour mobility towards high-value sectors.

For India, that would mean a massive movement from agricultural to industrial jobs. But the manufacturing sector, which is usually the largest consumer of medium-skilled workers, saw an employment growth of only 4.4 percent between 2004-05 and 2011-2012. This is just one-fourth that of the services sector and one-sixth that of construction sector during the same period. According to the 12th Plan, employment in manufacturing fell by five million between 2005-06 and 2009-10, after adding about 12 million jobs between 2000-01 and 2004-05. The McKinsey report adds that the trend in manufacturing has to be reversed, as 183 million job seekers are expected to join the workforce through the next 15 years.

What does this mean for the skill development sector in India? The National Policy on Skill Development is an attempt to increase labour mobility from low-skill to medium-skill segment. There are two probable scenarios that arise now. One is that job growth is greater or keeps pace with labour skill-upgradation and the other, where it does not. No significant issues are foreseen in the former scenario but if it is the latter, then the question is, what are the alternative employment opportunities for the upgraded labour? The emigration of low-skill labour from India to Middle-East and high-skill labour to USA and other developed countries is already prevalent. But what will have to be facilitated in the future is the emigration of medium-skill labour from India to the global market.

This will require in return two issues to be resolved. Are the standards of training and certification in Skill Development in India comparable to that of the global standards, hence facilitating labour mobility without cost of additional certification or assessment? And are the immigration regulations of the different countries liberal enough to facilitate easy labour mobility? If our certification standards aren’t global then the cost of certification per capita would significantly increase, the magnitude of increase remains to be calculated. This would in turn mean that the government’s reimbursement of INR 10,000 per student in vocational training might need to be revised.

The status quo today is that while we have achieved globalisation in capital and goods, globalisation in labour is strongly resisted by local political economy and vested interests. For Indians to be able to push for liberal immigration rules in other countries especially those that will need medium skill labour such as the developed nations, a pro-active foreign policy is essential. All of this points to the simple fact that skill development in India is a cross-departmental issue that needs concurrent engagement in multiple dimensions. But unfortunately the policy debate today is predominantly unidirectional and linear. This will require us to go back to the drawing-board. While the need is imminent, the interests lie more with the business community to push the political establishment to approach the issue with greater concern.

Arvind Ilamaran works as Research Associate at Centre for Civil Society. He is a graduate of Takshashila’s GCPP and worked with ONGC for more than two years before becoming a policy enthusiast. 

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