To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child , a garden patch, or a redeemed condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, September 19, 2014

Educated unemployed of India - the looming multitude

A recent article by CNBC's Neerja Jetley ('India's lost generation: A systemic risk?') laments that "Nearly 47 percent of Indian graduates are unemployable in any sector, irrespective of their academic degrees".  It goes on to lay the blame on the fact that "As little as 10- 12 percent of the 15-29 year-old age group in India receives any formal or informal training compared with to 28 percent in Mexico or 96 percent in South Korea".

I think the piece misses a couple of aspects.  First off, the problem doesn't start with lack of training in later-school years.  It starts with elementary education itself.  A World Bank report says that "44 percent of students in grades 2–5 in government schools cannot read short paragraphs with short ...language... Many ninth graders tested in two states using mathematics questions from an international survey had problems with basic arithmetic skills".  And this is no surprise.  With teacher skills & training (and qualifications! - talk of political interference there...) being what they are, that's the kind of student literacy rates which can be exptected.

Secondly, the article says "Theoretically, a nation with young demographic has lower dependency ratio..." and then goes on to describe how 'demographic dividend' doesn't work in India.  However, one additional aspect is that the premise itself may not hold.  Even if it's true that "In 2020, the average Indian will be only 29 years old, compared to 37 in China and the U.S., 45 in West Europe and 48 in Japan, according to India's Ministry of Labor and Employment", many such 29-year-olds do have a full family to support, with both ageing/aged parents and (courtesy early marriages, especially in rural areas) spouses & children.

The article concludes by saying that "The poor education standards are recipes for social problems as incidents of crime escalate".  But the escalating crime is not only caused by the poor educational standards.  It's also a symptom of the haves-have nots divide, caused by the same unemployability that plauges the system.

Unless urgent steps are taken to stem the rot in an integrated fashion, by attacking each and every factor in the entire chain of causes and effects, social tensions are only slated to increase, with predictable consequences for both law & order and institutionalized corruption, notwithstanding efforts to address one or the other symptom in an isolated manner.