The coronavirus pandemic along with the lockdown restrictions destabilized the Indian economy and decreased the chances of getting jobs for many citizens as well as threatened India’s successful contribution to SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth). Due to COVID-19, companies are trying to downsize their workforce to reduce the financial losses at least in terms of salaries when business is bringing very little or no profits. By May 2020, India’s unemployment rate has risen to 27.11% as compared to 8.74% in March.
Youth unemployment is an especially important challenge for India, considering that youth constitutes one-fifth of the Indian population.
In April 2020, 27 million Indians aged between 20–30 years lost their jobs, substantially reducing their household income.
Young women represent the most affected group because more than half of them were engaged in the hard-hit hospitality industry. In general, people are afraid of permanent exclusion from the workforce if no support will be guaranteed to them. Unless youth unemployment is prioritized, it can lead to social unrest and even wider economic gap between rich and poor.
Youth unemployment is an especially important challenge for India, considering that youth constitutes one-fifth of the Indian population. In general, people are afraid of permanent exclusion from the workforce if no support will be guaranteed to them. Unless youth unemployment is prioritized, it can lead to social unrest and even wider economic gap between rich and poor.
With the growing number of young men and women who want to work but do not have a chance to get a job, India needs to urgently address the skilling and employability issues. In this situation, apprenticeship seems to be a key scheme, which can help to support future employment prospects.
An efficient combination of studies and on-the-job training makes it beneficial both for the young generation and industry representatives to be engaged in the apprenticeship system. The youth can focus on their training and career start without having insecurities about the following employment, whereas businesses may find sustainable ways to decrease the expenditure, create growth opportunities, and stay competitive in the market.
In 2016, the Government of India launched the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) to promote apprenticeship and to incentivize employers who wish to engage apprentices. The scheme proposes to work pro-actively with the industries, including MSME to facilitate a tenfold increase in opportunities in the country by 2020. NAPS also mandate companies to engage apprentices according to their total employee strength as per the table below:
In Uttar Pradesh, 3371 companies are enrolled on the NAPS Portal before lockdown. The distribution of companies is, however, rather unequal because 40% of all UP companies are registered in four cities — Ghaziabad, Noida, Lucknow, and Kanpur. There is a vast potential for the apprenticeship system enrolment all around the state but local awareness on the Apprenticeship Act reforms is quite low. Incorrect perception of the regulations has to be addressed. Employers and candidates from various backgrounds should be informed about the transformational benefits they can receive through this engagement.
Being experienced in implementing the policies from paper to the ground and having strong relationships with local authorities, the RightWalk Foundation aspires to contribute to the development of the apprenticeship scheme in Uttar Pradesh. The employment situation is problematic not only because permanent residents lost their jobs but also because thousands of internal migrants returned to their home state from big cities where they used to earn before the lockdown.
The improvement of the apprenticeship system in the region would provide income source and skill development opportunities, foster inequality reduction, and stabilization of the local economy.
That is why RightWalk targets to increase the enrolments of companies on the NAPS portal from 3,371 to 10,000, the engagement of trade apprentices from 33,703 to 50,000 against a potential of ~280,000 and improve the quality of government ITIs from grade 1.6 to 2.5. In the first phase, we will target MSMEs, which contribute almost 60% of the total industrial output in the state, and in the second phase, large sector companies will be covered.
The strategy will be implemented with special benefits given to the companies that engage women and differently-abled apprentices because inclusion at the workplace is our top priority and an inalienable part of social and economic transformations.
For India, apprenticeships are now more important than ever because the lockdown indicated all the weak points in different institutions and dimensions of the country. These weak points should be viewed as our starting points for making a difference in a society on the way to ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.
Training and reskilling young men and women by giving them an opportunity to earn while they are learning through the apprenticeship system will support them in becoming self-reliable professionals and providing for the families, as well as help businesses achieve greater cost-efficiency and remain sustainable during the “new normal” times.
About the authors: Samina Bano is the Founder & CEO at RightWalk; Karan is the Head of Strategy at RightWalk; Polina Nezdiikovska is the Sr. Content Writer at RightWalk.