Time to skill

Posted February 18, 2011

The social justice and empowerment minister has written a letter to the prime minister, reminding him of the UPA’s commitment to expand opportunity for SC/ST youth, and detailing ways in which corporate India has failed to live up to the big talk about affirmative action. An outright quota in the private sector is unworkable. However, there needs to be a definite movement towards expanding employability and keeping the larger egalitarian mission in mind.

In order for them to make better hiring decisions, companies need a large pool of diverse candidates to choose from. That would involve addressing the skills deficit that India is reeling under, one that disproportionately impacts the disprivileged, SC/ST youth among them. For all the promises about the private sector training these under-served parts of the population, and moulding a work-force to fit their needs, there is just not enough evidence of that happening. As the minister observes, the actual numbers of SC/ ST youth trained are terribly meagre. But the government cannot merely cluck at the companies for their lack of enthusiasm, if they haven’t enabled this process. It’s the government’s responsibility to extend ladders of opportunity, they need to ensure that SC/ST candidates are prepped for the job market, directed by a particular sector’s needs. Industry-led skills training is a staple in most countries, and much needed for our own labour force. Incentives like tax deductions for apprenticeship stipends would certainly help, and could be geared to address caste-based disadvantage.

Corporate India should be better encouraged to create more equal opportunity workplaces. Such action is not just a moral and democratic imperative, it makes hard business sense to devote energy and resources to India’s skills deficit, and focus on those who have been left out of corporate India’s runaway success. It would not just redress historical disadvantage, it would make life easier for India Inc in the long run, by enlarging the numbers of those who have a stake in its future.

Posted on http://www.indinexpress.com

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