Time for India to follow EU’s effective ‘Youth Guarantee’ programme now
With the unemployment rate at a 45 year high, and peaking at 7.6 percent in April 2019, it is the right time for the new government to implement the Youth Guarantee Programme by taking a cue from the hugely successful European Union’s blueprint.
Prime Minister Modi’s decision to create a committee on Employment and Skills Development which brought together ministers of key skill development and employment ministries was critical. Going forward, this article suggests a bold move, the European Union’s ‘Youth Guarantee’ framework which will directly address the high unemployment rate of 7.6 percent (April 2019) and offer services to enhance and engage the economic and educational engagement of the youth. This can be implemented with the might and influence of various relevant member ministers of this committee. It would be otherwise be impossible to implement a far sighted programme like Youth Guarantee.
While the government is expected to carry forward some of the successful skills and employment schemes launched in the last phase, it will predictbly launch new schemes aligned with the election manifesto. While such schemes are well-intentioned with a strong motivation to succeed, they often struggle to deliver outcomes at scale due to inherent compartmentalisation and a lack of coordination at the ministerial, and local administrative level. This results in such progressive moves not reaching most of the target audience.
Guaranteeing employment for the youth
Youth Guarantee is not another new budgetary scheme, it is a framework to better manage and implement already existing or proposed skills and employment schemes targeted at the youth. The ‘Youth Guarantee’ (YG) commitment framework, which a time-tested model in the European Union, has yielded results which can be adopted beautifully to the urgent needs in the Indian context.
While Youth Guarantee is not a constitutional right like Right to Education (RTE) or Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREGA) Act (livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment to every rural household), it is a guaranteed mechanism that enforces various ministries and local government’s coordinated actions towards the Youth and their future.
Currently, RTE mandates every child the right to full time elementary education between the ages 6 to 14 years. Though the minimum age limit for participation in MGNREGA is 18 years, the evaluation of the beneficiaries reflected that 60.7 percent in the age group of 36 to 55 years were benefited.
Even as the debate to increase the age limit and strengthen the public education system for RTE intensifies, and MGNREGA continues to not benefit a majority between the age group of 18 to 30 years, the ‘Youth Guarantee’ programme supports the continuum to facilitate transition from education to economic engagement and advancement for the age group between 18 to 30 years.
At a time when the unemployment rate in India is at a 45 year high, and peaking at 7.6 percent in April 2019, those in NEET (Not in employment, education or training) at 30 percent (including school dropout ratio at 30 percent) coupled with India’s economic growth prospects with a new majority government, this is the best time to design and implement a national level ‘Youth Guarantee’ programme framework that energises the youth and activates the local administrative machinery to coordinate and deliver.
Youth Guarantee’ will consolidate the government’s efforts in targeting the youth and provide a one stop shop for schemes like Skill India, Startup India etc at a local level. Each of these initiatives have issues of quality, demand-supply gap, linkages, outreach and scale that will evolve for the better over a period. The YG framework does not claim to fix all these issues but it will most certainly ensure the outreach and scale most initiatives struggle to accomplish (all skills development schemes target achievement hovers around 50 percent for the past five years). In all these schemes, local municipalities, district functionaries and gram panchayats have no or least accountability towards outputs or outcomes.
So how will India’s Youth Guarantee (YG) programme work?
Essentially, it means that every person under 30 at each municipality or district level will be offered services within four months of registering to enhance their economic and/or educational engagements. This included but is not limited to career counselling, traineeship with a possibility of a job, thematic EDP programmes with entrepreneurship assistance, apprenticeship, RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning), bank linkages and select remedial courses for early leavers from education and training or a place in some other form of study. For this to happen, the municipality or the district magistrate office should first have a repository of youth data of this age group (none of them might have it but the framework will force it), consolidate multiple departments’ and ministries’ action plans for the youth (difficult but possible with incentives) at the local level.
YG could be a public-private partnership arrangement at the district level governed by the district magistrate or at the municipality level governed by the commissioner. To work, the Youth Guarantee needs the full cooperation of national, state and local authorities, as well as public employment services, skills training providers, education actors and participants from businesses and the third sector. The central Ministry of Skills Development & Entrepreneurship and the State Skills Development missions are well positioned to deliver this framework with commitment for inter-ministerial and inter departmental coordination. In Europe, Public Employment Offices hold the key responsibility in delivering the YG outcomes, but this can be customised in India to the preparedness at each district or municipality level.
YG will reduce the hassles faced by directionless youth in the category of unemployed or in NEET at the local level with a guarantee and timeframe to find solutions and pathways for their economic, educational or skill mobility. Fiscal expenditure to set up such a guarantee framework could be drawn from respective youth schemes.
YG is most appropriate for the new government and the newly-formed employment and skills development committee to consider as this will be complementary and will mutually reinforce the already enacted and planned employment and skills policies targeting youth. As Victor Hugo said, “There’s nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come,” especially at a time when youth votes count and decides the fate of India more than ever. Yes, the time is ripe before we knowingly allow it to rot!
What is the Youth Guarantee Programme?
The Youth Guarantee is a commitment by all Member States to ensure that all young people under the age of 25 years receive a good quality offer of employment, continued education, apprenticeship, traineeship, within a period of four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education.
More than 5 million young people have registered in YG schemes each year since 2014. Since 2014, each year more than 3.5 million young people registered in the YG accepted an offer of employment, continued education, a traineeship or an apprenticeship.
The Youth Employment Initiative has provided direct support to over 2.4 million young people across the EU.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)
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