The coming Jobs War & and my own tiny effort: introducing Illuminate!
A few days back, I stumbled on this NYT Op-Ed by Charles Blow in which he talked about “The Coming Jobs War” – the new book by Gallup Chairman, Jim Clifton. Mr Blow wrote (emphasis added):
According to Clifton, “the coming world war is an all-out global war for good jobs.”
Clifton explains that of the world’s five billion people over 15 years old, three billion said they worked or wanted to work, but there are only 1.2 billion full-time, formal jobs.
In the book he makes this striking statement, drawing from all of Gallup’s data: “The primary will of the world is no longer about peace or freedom or even democracy; it is not about having a family, and it is neither about God nor about owning a home or land. The will of the world is first and foremost to have a good job. Everything else comes after that.”
The only problem is that there are not enough good jobs to go around.
“…the world will be led with economic force — a force that is primarily driven by job creation and quality G.D.P. growth.”.. And..we (USA) don’t appear to be poised to fight this war. In education we’ve gone from leading to lagging, our infrastructure is literally crumbling around us, ever-expanding health care costs threaten to suffocate us and our politics have succumbed to paralysis.
Although the last few lines are about USA, they appear even more stark when viewed from India – where things are decidedly worse.
The challenge is humungous – and depressingly, the government is blithely unaware of it.
We dont have a coherent education policy; the sector remains in thrall of politicians & would-be politicians, shackled by bureaucracy and red-tape (as an aside, do read Dr Atanu Dey and “The Commodification of Education” and RealityCheck’s series of posts on RTE). Skills-based training and vocational education get lip-service but precious else. Instead of creating a vibrant SME sector, led by manufacturing and services, we continue to worry about monsoons and lament the plight of the farmer. All this in the middle of one the biggest demographic shifts in history, anywhere in the world. I am of course, talking about the youth bulge and our unparalleled demographic advantage. This however is not quite as straight-foward. As a recent article pointed out,
India’s youthful population can be viewed as a double-edged sword – capable of bringing great benefit to the country in the decades ahead, but with extensive demands that, under current economic conditions, the country looks unable to fulfill.
A recent IMF report suggests that India’s demographic dividend alone could contribute two percentage points to its annual G.D.P. growth for the next two decades, if the country adopts the right policies…
A 2010 Goldman Sachs paper projected that India’s industry would need to create nearly 40 million jobs by the end of this decade to absorb this huge increase in the labor force. Aided by the demographic dividend, India could clock economic growth of 7 to 9 percent until 2030, possibly wiping out absolute poverty as we know it today..
Some commentators now fear that India’s much touted demographic dividend is on the verge of going horribly wrong – that the economy may not produce enough jobs to absorb the fast-growing labor force, leaving millions of young people feeling bitter and betrayed.
A youthful population is an asset only if it is healthy – and it is educated (read skilled). Otherwise it can be a massive force of social disruption…
The challenges we face on this front (education, skills, training and creating jobs) are massive and not really of the kind that can be countered by individual efforts..But try we must..for there really is no other choice..So I continue to do my own little bit.. the latest effort in this direction is Illuminate!
Illuminate! is a series of workshops in collaboration with IIT Bombay that I will be leading over the next few weeks across different cities in India. This promises to be exhilarating – and also exhausting. But I am looking forward to it because I firmly believe there is no other way to create jobs at a massive scale in the situation we find ourselves in, except by promoting entrepreneurship, by encouraging risk-taking and by celebrating failures that will inevitable result from such risk-taking. I am hardly alone in thinking this – and I have been influenced by many others on this matter, including people far more experienced and smarter than me. Entrepreneurship and job creation are fundamental to development and growth – 2 things we need badly. As numerous experts, including the redoubtable Narayana Murthy have publicly pointed out:
The only way to eliminate poverty is through the creation of jobs. And this can be best achieved through entrepreneurship
In some of my public presentations, I have made the point on how NREGA funds could be better used to impart skills and help entrepreneurs set up businesses to create jobs or set up vocational training colleges, instead of guaranteeing employment to unskilled labour. But that is a topic for another day..In the meantime, if I can ignite the spark of entrepreneurship in even a few young minds, I would think this whole effort has been worthwhile..Please help us spread the word…and wish me luck! Jai Hind, Jai Bharat!