News

    India's Working Age Population Growing in Size, Lacking in Education and Skills

    Even as India emerges as one of the world's major economies, it is still struggling to achieve widespread literacy among its people, and officials say there is a massive shortage of skilled labor. VOA's Steve Herman reports from New Delhi that a large labor force by itself is not enough to offset the economic damage from a failure to educate.

    India has 320 million people between the ages of six and 16. In a decade, India will be home to 800 million people of working age. All that available labor is touted as a competitive advantage over the rapidly aging populations of the developed world.

    The equation, however, is not as simple as it seems.

    A report by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the World Economic Forum has emphasized that India's burgeoning economy needs not just more workers, but more skilled workers. The experts agree that failure to educate its people is hurting India's economy.

    Chaly Mah is the Asia-Pacific chief of Deloitte, a global consulting company. He says there is a widespread misconception that India and China have a lot of people available for hire.

    "I think that's a myth, because when you talk about skilled labor and skilled professionals, there is actually a massive shortage. And I think the core of the problem is you've got to start from the very beginning, and that is, ensure that you have a solid education system," said Mah.

    India is still struggling to achieve nationwide literacy, especially among girls and the rural poor.

    Some two-thirds of Indians are now believed to be literate, compared to less than 20 percent in 1951, when the first census was taken after independence. But critics complain that literacy is often defined as merely being able to write one's own name. And one-third of a billion-plus people, those still illiterate, is an awful lot of people without basic education.

    Education became a fundamental right for children in India only at the beginning of this decade. But many poverty-stricken parents feel compelled to have their children work, rather than go to school.

    Shamsher Mehta is director-general of the Confederation of Indian Industry.

    "A very high percentage don't go to school, an even higher percentage are dropping out of school. And therefore, while it looks like a demographic advantage today, if you don't do something about it - both in public and private - then I'm afraid this risk might just slip out of our hands and might become a liability," said Mehta.

    Mehta was among those speaking about the country's development challenges and risks during the World Economic Forum's India Economic Summit this week in New Delhi.

    Shekhar Dutt is a former top education official in the state of Madhya Pradesh, and is now a deputy national security advisor. He told business leaders at the event that while India's state and central governments are serious about the goal of universal education, it is not just a matter of having higher enrollment.

    "If you try to enroll girls into rural schools and if there are no toilets, it's a difficult thing. So when we take up things like larger enrollment, we have to also see that the infrastructure of the schools are improved," said Dutt.

    Many villages do not even have a primary school and, frequently, those that do are poorly funded and might not even contain blackboards or desks.

    Another significant problem is that teachers are poorly trained and many, especially in rural communities, do not show up for class regularly. The report says many of those who do show up do not have an adequate curriculum and will discriminate against students who are from poor families or members of lower castes.

    International organizations, including the World Bank, have contributed funds for expanding primary education in India. The country does have a number of high-quality convent schools, a legacy of the British colonial era. Private schools, most of which were established after independence, remain - with token exceptions - the provenance of the elite.

    Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told the forum it is urgent for India to narrow the gap between rich and poor if the country's education and manpower needs are to be met.

    "Because it creates these issues that others have talked about, in terms of lack of education, lack of sanitation, bad usage of resources and the whole way of how to include the vast number of people within any society within the legal framework," she said.

    The industrial confederation and economic forum joint report says India should improve the training and discipline of teachers, to ensure better education.

    At present, nearly all of the money allocated for education by the central government goes to pay teachers' salaries. The government has financed various state-run schemes, including free textbooks for girls and the underprivileged, with varying degrees of success. In some states, critics say, money that is allocated is not being spent.


    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.