The last twenty-five years have seen a tectonic shift in India, not just in terms of the growth of the economy or the changes in the political landscape, but also in the aspirations we have for ourselves and for future generations. From being a poor country seen as a charity case, India is spoken of as an economic heavyweight, a geo-political power and a country that simply cannot be ignored or taken for granted in the world at large.
This has led to a similar change in the way our youth looks to it’s future as well. Once, jobs were ancestral, just like property. A milkman’s son became a milkman, a farmer’s children carried on farming and a shop-keeper’s son took his father’s place on the till. For the urban middle-class, the ‘Government job’ was the ultimate aspiration, with only the truly ambitious aspiring for Banking jobs and those with both ambition and money trying to go abroad.
How has this changed today?
Several agencies have conducted surveys to try and understand the answer to this question. The major findings of a study conducted by Hindustan Times recemtly revealed a few interesting trends, though extrapolation was difficult due to a lack of similar surveys conducted in the eighties.
1. Indian youth are not homogenous, with the rural – urban divide decidedly present. Each group had substantially different ideas about the future and the course they expected their life to take. Similarly there is a class divide as well, with the urban middle-class having different aspirations from the poor in both rural and urban areas.
2. ‘Getting a job’ is a major worry for a large number of the youth, which reflects the uncertainty in the job market even for the educated.
3. The need for financial independence is strong in a country without a social security net. Therefore, the salary and stability of a job is a far more important determinant than it’s nature for a majority of the surveyed youth.
4. Almost an equal number of respondents were interested in going abroad as were in getting a government job. As recently as the 2010’s, the lure of a Government job, with the attendant job security and perks is still attractive to the youth of India.
5. The urge for entrepreneurship is also present, though not as high as maybe it should be. About 15% of the respondents on the survey were looking to strike out on their own as entrepreneurs.
6. Most Indian youth are guided by their parents on education and career choices. This means that children are often pushed by their parents into opting for career choices that are not necessarily their choices. As a result of a desire for white-collar jobs, more Indians are opting for education in software programming than in building roads, bridges and buildings.
What do these trends mean for India in the long run? After all, we are a country that is looking at a severe skilled labour shortage. The numbers vary from industry to industry, with infrastructure, construction and automobile sectors likely to be hit the hardest.
As a result, some experts say that the career aspirations of Indians are already running ahead of the skills that the country actually needs to transition to an economy that can support that many jobs in traditional white-collar sectors.
The National Skill Development Corporation and the Skill India campaign launched by the NDA government both focus on the much-needed task of aligning the skills of the Indian Youth with the sectors and jobs where they are needed. Social scientists have gone so far as to say that if this is not done, the sheer numbers of unemployed youth in the country could lead to a social disaster.
This makes it all the more important that the Government and Private sectors take steps to not just employ the youth but to make them employable as well. Presently, a lot of private sector expenditure is wasted on making employees who have a college degree capable of carrying out their jobs – something that their Universities should have prepared them for. Unless the education sector is aligned with the nation’s needs, or the overwhelming emphasis on certain sectors like IT is balanced by promotion of practical skills with a job orientation.
The Youth of India are its greatest asset, and it is important that their aspirations are guided in the right direction in their own interest.