The Indian Prime Minister unleashed a big idea in his big speech last week, India as the HR Capital of the world! Speaking at the launch of Skill India campaign on the World Youth Skills Day on 15th July, he laid out the goal of making India the Human Resources capital of the world. This was a sound objective, something that is suitably aspirational for a statesman and rather obvious at the same time. There is a looming Global Workforce Crisis, using a term coined by Boston Consulting Group, which may notionally cost the global economy upwards of $10 trillion between 2020 and 2030 - and India has the right raw materials, young people, for a solution.
It is also India's opportunity to lose. The country's 'Demographic Window of Opportunity', a period when at least 55% of its population is working age, opened in 2015. When population of most other countries are ageing - both United States and China would start to have more retirees than working people within the next few years - India's Window has just opened and would remain so till 2050. With the possible exception of the continent of Africa (and Nigeria in particular), where major public health and security issues have to be tackled, India's demographic strengths in the coming years will be insuperable. Some estimates project that India will supply a quarter of the global working population by 2025, and most agree that India will in any case have the largest workforce.
But, Mr Modi's aspiration should be larger than the mere logic of demography. The idea of being a Human Resource capital is more than what India was - a source of Babus and Plantation Workers for post-slavery British Empire - or has been of late - the home of Offshore services! Implicit in it, if we read it right, an aspiration to lead with knowledge, something that translates the number of people into a source of prosperity and prominence. Therein lies the biggest challenge of India - how to educate a large population effectively to unleash a productivity boom, and to move up the global value chain of knowledge and power.
So far, India's response to this challenge was pedestrian. While the previous government recognised the demographic strength and thought up large scale skills development agenda, something that Mr Modi is carrying forward, there was little imagination involved. Even disregarding the implementation difficulties, customary inefficiencies and usual corruption, the Indian project tried to borrow the skills development models from the developed world - and widely missed the mark. The world would be a different place in 2025, with a perfect storm of globalisation, automation, urbanisation and occupational changes, and the skills and abilities that would be required in this whole new world are completely different from what we needed in the 1990s. Despite their current dominance in the new Indian workforce, the Programmers and BPO workers are on their way out! The millions of process-based jobs that India created in the last wave of globalisation, the experience that shaped ideas of Mr Modi's predecessors, will increasingly become automated. The new millions of jobs that Mr Modi want to snatch from an increasingly expensive China, the aspiration that informs his 'Make in India' slogan, are being shipped back to the developed world, where nimble manufacturing is enabling a new convergence of production and consumption. The worker of 2025 that India needs to fulfill its HR Capital vision is so far missing in action in India.
One could, and should, talk about overhauling the Indian Education system if the Prime Ministers vision has to be realised, but the challenge is broader than just effecting a quantitative and qualitative educational change. Other, more complex, questions will also need to be addressed. For example, adapting to the global context, as this new worker must, would require an open approach to new ideas, and abrogation of 'Not Invented Here' mindset that one spots so readily while engaging with India. Most of the new workforce in India would come from regional, racial and religious minorities, and the country's educational hierarchies have to be reshaped, shedding its elitism. And, it has to accept the role of women in the workplace, and discard the stigma associated with working girls. It must be noted that these ideas, however obvious, run somewhat counter to the ideological transformation of India that Mr Modi's government wants to affect. The HR Minister wants to create a more Indian system of education, which will be centrally controlled, and reject the Western ideas embedded in the system. The ruling party wants to establish the Indian identity based on the majority religion and language. And many ministers publicly said that they would want women to return to their traditional roles and have more children (presumably to support the demographic agenda further, but with wrong consequences).
In conclusion, therefore, the Prime Ministers comment needs to be seen in this perspective. If these comments were meant to convey mere demographic information, one should recognise the limits of this rhetoric - and that it could be self-defeating. It must be recognised that the demography is not destiny, and the future must be actively imagined and brought into being. And, this, in a rapidly changing world, can only be done through realism, openness and engagement with the world.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Nations are ideas. We try to fashion them as territories. But how can a river, a mountain ridge or sometimes an imaginary line in the middle of a field can explain the wide division in the lives, thoughts and futures of the people who live on different sides? Nations are not the people too. Indeed, people build nations and become its body. But the soul of the nation is an idea: People come together on an idea to build a nation. While that's what a modern nation is - an idea - and that way exceptionalism is not an American exception, very few nations are as completely defined by an idea as Pakistan. There was hardly any political, geographic or military rationale of Pakistan other than the idea of an Islamic homeland in South Asia. [In that way, the ideological brother of Pakistan in the family of nations is Israel] This, abated by the short term political calculations of some backroom colonialists, created a modern state which must be solely sustained on that singular idea. Religi
This post is a reaction to Aatish Taseer's evocative obituary of secular India in the Atlantic ( read here ). While I agree with it mostly - and share the reservations about the direction and the future of India - I differ with the author on one key aspect: I do not agree with his portrayal of a resurgent Bharat eating up a secular India. In fact, I believe while Mr Taseer regrets the Indian elite's loss of connection with the realities of day to day life of the country, his very presentation of Bharat and India as oppositional entities stems from that incomprehension. While I understand that he is only using these categories as RSS uses them - to effectively other the English-speaking elites and non-Hindus - I believe it is a mistake to describe the profound changes in contemporary India as the ascendance of Bharat. I grew up in Bharat. I never learnt English until late in life, when I started working. My growing-up world was one of small-town India, vernacu
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen was gui
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was, as
A lot of conversations about Kolkata is about its past; I want to talk about its future. Most conversations about Kolkata is about its decline - its golden moments and how times changed; I want to talk about its rise, how its best may lie ahead and how we can change the times. In place of pessimism, I seek optimism; instead of inertia, I am looking for imagination. It is not about catching up, I am arguing; it is about making a new path altogether. It had, indeed it had, a glorious past: One of the first Asian cities to reach a million population, the Capital of British India, the cradle of an Enlightened Age and a new politics of Cosmopolitanism. And, it had stumbled - losing the hinterland that supplied its Jute factories, overwhelmed by the refugees that came after the partition, devoid of its professional class who chose to emigrate - the City's commercial and professional culture evaporated in a generation, and it transformed into a corrupt and inefficien
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
The story of British influence on Indian Education, to which Macaulay's Minutes of 1835 belong, has been told in six distinct phases. Syed Nurullah and J P Naik's very popular and influential History of Indian Education calls these 'six acts' of the drama: From the beginning of Eighteenth Century to 1813 The British East India Company received its charter in 1600 but its activities did not include any Educational engagement till the Charter Act of 1698, which required the Company to maintain priests and schools, for its own staff and their children. And, so it was until the renewal of its charter in 1813, when the evangelical influence led to insistence of expansion of educational activities and allowing priests back into company territory. From 1813 to Wood's Education Despatch of 1854 The renewal of Charter in 1813 re-opened the debate, which seemed to have been settled in the early years of the company administration, between the Orientalis
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.