Who is vocational training for? Data shows that more than 84% of Indians did not receive one


VVocational and technical training has been the central pillar of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious skills-building mission since 2015. It is also the element that will drive India’s Atma Nirbhar Bharat push. But the data reveals that despite the government’s high priority, uptake of vocational and technical training has been surprisingly low. It’s no wonder many reviewers say it languishes in neglect and needs to be imbued with a bit of ‘gati shakti‘. In 2020-2021, more than 84% of Indians aged 12 to 59 have not received vocational and technical training.

If less people are receiving VTT (Vocational and Technical Training), it calls for a bigger awareness campaign, like other flagship programs such as Swachh Bharat. With a Covid-battered economy, India cannot afford to slow down a program that has huge potential to catapult both manufacturing and services.

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Fewer people trained

We looked at data from the government’s Periodic Labor Force Survey (PLFS) for the periods 2017-18 and 2020-21. Although there is so much talk about pushing VTT to close the employability gap, we found that the program has yet to achieve the desired result.

The PLFS dataset shows that 92.6% of respondents (in the age group 12-59) in 2017-18 and 84.4% in 2020-21 received no mountain bikes, with a marginal difference three basis points in favor of urban areas over rural areas.

The situation is worse for women, with 95.6% in 2017-18 and around 90% in 2020-21 not receiving mountain bikes, compared to men (around 90% and 79% for the respective periods). The lower MTB level is one of the causes of faltering labor productivity growth.

The results above imply that only 7.4% (2017-18) and 15.6% (2020-21) of people aged 12-59 received some form of mountain biking. This does not bode well for a country aspiring to become a manufacturing and financial services hub.

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A dismal sight in every way

We also found that of those who received some form of MTB, almost half received “on-the-job training” or are counted as “self-learning” during the two time periods for which data is available. The same trend was visible in both rural and urban areas. ‘Learning on the job’ and ‘self-study’ mean that no formal training has taken place and that people learn and acquire skills while working.

Formal mountain biking, which the PLFS defines as “training acquired through institutions/organizations”, represented only 1.8% in 2017-2018. This figure increased slightly to 3% in 2020-21. The number of people receiving such formal training in urban areas is two to three times higher than in rural areas. It is also seen that men in both rural and urban areas accounted for a higher share than women.

People who received VTT for performing hereditary activities represented less than 1.5% in 2017-2018, which more than doubled to 3.8% in 2020-21. However, compared to the overall scenario, it represented only about a quarter to a fifth of those who received the MTB. No wonder people pursuing hereditary jobs are on the decline.

Further analysis showed that people in all age groups received no training – over 89% in 2017-18 and over 78% in 2020-21. Therefore, the spread of discomfort is “immune to age.”

Additionally, 20 states/UTs in 2017-18 and 23 states/UTs in 2020-21 (out of a total of 36 surveyed) had a higher than national average number of people who did not receive an ATV.

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A very large portion of India’s population of all age groups has not received any form of vocational training, with most of this population coming from rural areas and including women. Is it the lack of demand or scarcity of skills programs or inadequate infrastructure and trainers that hinders the spread of mountain biking?

With a limited data set available from the PLFS, it is not possible to obtain a satisfactory answer. Only an in-depth analysis would be able to provide us with the answers that we so badly need. Both the public and private sectors should take responsibility for building an effective and competitive workforce, specifically targeting young people. A fresh look at the approach to extending the reach and depth of skills programs is the need of the hour.

Dr. Palash Baruah is a Research Associate, National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER), New Delhi. He tweets @DrPalashBaruah.

Danny Lewin Wankhar is a retired Indian Economic Service officer. He tweets @dan20041976.

Views are personal.


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