‘Private and public sectors must work together to create a skilled, future-ready workforce,’ says Nadia Rasheed, Deputy Resident Representative, UNDP India

‘Private and public sectors must work together to create a skilled, future-ready workforce,’ says Nadia Rasheed, Deputy Resident Representative, UNDP India

Thursday September 19, 2019,

7 min Read

In September 2015, 193 member states of the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which included a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to improve the wellbeing of people and the planet and promote peace and prosperity, while leaving no one behind. UNDP has been supporting countries to advance these goals through integrated solutions to complex development challenges, connecting issues across sectors and thematic areas and leveraging partnerships with national and sub-national governments, communities, civil society and the private sector.


YourStory spoke to Nadia Rasheed, Deputy Resident Representative, UNDP in India about the role of the private sector in supporting achievement of the SDGs:

1. The Government of India and the National Skills Development Corporation have been entrusted with the responsibility of skilling 150 million people by 2022. What do you think can be done by the private sector, UN and NGOs to enable this?

India has the largest number of young people in the world and is experiencing a “youth bulge”, while many other countries and regions are facing an ageing population. This means that it is important for India to harness this potential demographic dividend by expanding jobs and opportunities for young people.

Jobs these days require skill sets that are not a part of standard classroom curricula. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, skills like cognitive ability, creativity, logical reasoning and problem sensitivity, will increasingly be required for jobs of the future.

To ensure that youth have these skills and are future ready to meet industry demands, there is a need for all stakeholders – Government, businesses, the private sector and NGOs – to invest in trainings, placements and job creation.

The private sector has a key role in the achievement of the universally adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It plays an important role as an engine of economic growth and job creation, and as a funder of development action. It can develop new and innovative solutions that help tackle development challenges and it is a central actor in addressing poverty and inequality. 

Skill development is the shared responsibility of key stakeholders, including Government, the entire spectrum of the corporate sector, community-based organizations, and dedicated individuals who have been working in the skilling and entrepreneurship space for many years. To leverage the strengths of different stakeholders, UNDP has created collaborative platforms called Youth Employability Service Centres in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Haryana where young people are connected with trainers to provide skills training and help prepare them for interviews. The private sector is then invited to interact with and interview young job-seekers, who are then placed in jobs. This is being done through the Disha Project which is a partnership between UNDP and the India Development Foundation, supported by the IKEA Foundation. Such initiatives which bridge the gap in the skilling ecosystem are only possible if there is a collaborative effort between stakeholders.

2. In the decade following 2005-06, over 270 million people in India moved out of poverty and the poverty rate in the country nearly halved over the 10-year period. What needs to be done to pull the remaining half out of poverty?

The SDGs were formulated to end poverty in all forms and dimensions by 2030. This means that we will have to reach out to the most marginalized communities and support them with the necessary skills so that they are economically empowered. Employment and a steady income are a dependable way of helping people break out of poverty and vulnerability.

While India has an enormous workforce in its prime, there are a variety of jobs being created that many youths are not yet skilled to fill. Many of these jobs emphasize skills such as complex problem solving, emotional intelligence and effective communication, which may not be a focus for traditional college degrees. Without specialised training, many eligible young people will not be considered as ideal candidates. In this regard, the private sector can play a key role in helping to develop training programmes that align to their job requirements.

However, the available training is often not scalable or adequate. Some of the larger companies can partner with government bodies, organizations like UNDP, and NGOs to extend their reach. Apart from skilling youth, entrepreneurial trainings also make people, especially women in rural areas financially independent. For example, in Haryana, a young woman named Pinki signed up for the entrepreneurial start-up training with the Disha Project in partnership with Government of Haryana, Hero Moto Corp and Humana People to People India. After the training, she decided to dust off a sewing machine her father had gifted her to start her own enterprise. She started taking orders for sarees for embroidery and stitching and made a profit. With the profit she also started a cosmetic shop. Although Pinki is only educated to class 10, the trainings have helped her and other women and girls to come out of unpaid care work and to become economically empowered. We know that financially independent women play a critical role in improving well-being of families and investing in their children’s education. This is especially important in eradicating poverty and meeting the commitment to leave no one behind.

3. One of the key gaps that needs addressing is bringing more women into the workforce. What can be done to bridge the gap and create a more equitable workforce?

Gender equality is a fundamental human right and a requirement for sustainable development. SDG 5 focuses on ending gender inequality by eliminating all forms of discrimination, violence and harmful practices, including trafficking of women and girls. In addition to SDG 5, action on gender equality must be promoted across the SDG agenda. There is a pressing need to bring more women into the workforce to improve their economic status, contributing to SDG 8 on ensuring productive employment and decent work for all, and SDG 10 on reducing inequality.

Today, the labour force participation rate for women in India is only 28%, according to the Deloitte report ‘Empowering Women & Girls in India’ for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The report also says that 195 million women or 95% of working women are employed in the unorganized sector or are in unpaid work.

Our Disha Project seeks to improve the lives of one million underprivileged women in India by helping them learn marketable skills and connect to income opportunities. The project aims to enable women to become economically self-sufficient so that they, their families and future generations can have better opportunities in life. Our goal is to have equal labour force participation by women and men by 2030. To achieve this goal, it is important to skill women, connect them with employment opportunities, help young girls transition smoothly from education to work, directly connect women agrarians with buyers and help them gain financial literacy so that they can get a better and fairer price for their produce.

4. How will skilling lead to reduced inequalities?

It is estimated that by 2022 India’s workforce will increase to 600 million people. The ratio between organized and unorganized sectors is expected to shift only marginally from 8 percent and 92 percent to 10 percent and 90 percent. This shift will be driven by the forces of globalization, a growing domestic market, the adoption of exponential technologies, growing infrastructure and entrepreneurship. Sectors that have contributed to India’s growth such as IT and BPOs will also be scaling up hiring and looking for suitably skilled candidates. While creating a more level economic field will require the removal of discriminatory laws, policies and practices, it will be important to adopt fiscal, wage and social protection policies.

To reduce income volatility and ensure upward mobility for people who are marginalized, the only viable long-term solution is to create an educated and skilled population that is ready to meet the needs of tomorrow’s job market. This will help move people out of irregular, unorganised sectors into full-time employment with a structured and regular income. The benefits of including more women in the workforce and the positive impact on the country’s GDP are already well known. A stronger future-ready workforce that is skilled for the job demands of tomorrow requires government policy and private resources to work together to make that future a reality.