Creating employment for millions of youngsters who are hitting the job market every year is a huge shadow hanging over the Modi government, and to do this at the grassroots level is where Nagarik comes in. ‘Nagarik’ means citizen and a PwC
report suggests that a Nagarik initiative is the need of the hour, to get all those educated and restless young people to become productive tax-paying citizens rather than become trouble-makers.
Nagarik is about connecting people from villages, towns and small cities who don’t have access to bigger cities to the national and international markets, so that sustainable employment is created. This applies especially to backward states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar and Assam, which is where 62 percent of our total population lives but which will need to have 80 percent of new employment being created over the coming decade. It also needs to be put in place in any other state/location where the rich-poor and urban-rural divide is so stark that it will create societal imbalance.
As PwCStrategy and India Leader Shashank Tripathi explains in the report, “Many see Nagarik as ‘Ease of Business 2.0’ as it goes beyond creating an environment for good business. It extends to catalytic support to seed enterprises, projects and themes that generate employment. This will be delivered through a partnership between governments, the private sector and the citizen to kick-start the process of economic activity and employment generation.”
The Centre is interested for obvious reasons and private partners are looking to see if they can de-risk their supply chains and find alternative and cheaper resources for their businesses. But the real goal is to ensure that we have growth that is not devoid of jobs. As it is, the statistics are frightening because between 2004 and 2014, a lot of smaller countries have overtaken India with regard to job creation efficiency.
India’s GDP growth ‘looks’ good but we haven’t created jobs. Only China seems to have struck the right balance of economic and employment growth. Germany is the only country to have done worse than everyone, including India, on both parameters. Many Latin American countries and the US, has done better than India on the job creation criteria, even if their economic growth has not been as strong.
So, having a huge population, India needs jobs desperately because more than 50 percent of this population is dependant and below the age of 25 and more than 65 percent is below the age of 35. In the next 15 years, India’s population will continue to grow younger before it starts ageing from 2034 onward. Up to 2027, India will add 100 million young people into the job-hunting age population and it is woefully under-prepared for this. It feels kind of late in the day for PM Modi to counsel people about population control in his Independence Day speech in 2019, when he could have said the same thing in his first term, and made this a serious concern for India’s future prosperity and stability.
What’s worrying is that women workers are dropping off and out of the 390 million women in the working age group, only 29 percent are in the labour force. Hence our labour force participation rate is 57 percent in 2014 compared to 63.5 percent, which is the global average. Then there are marginal workers who do not even have regular employment and work for less than 180 days in a year. These people need to be given all-year round employment, especially with the decline in the agriculture sector, which earlier provided many with income and work. In urban areas, both men and women are losing out to automated technology, as upskilling programmes are few and far in between.The Nagarik platform envisages a joint centre-state-private sector-citizens initiative on a huge scale, that seems simple on paper. Here are its principles and what it’s looking to achieve:
Convert marginal workers to full-time ones and for this to occur employment strategies need to be developed where a state’s core capabilities and existing strengths are leveraged. Eg: Uttar Pradesh’s traditional sources of employment/income have been agriculture, its SMEs and its cultural heritage. The focal point is to create a market connect, both of the physical and digital types. This will help in forging links to demand centres and coming up with solutions based on market needs. Additional long-term capabilities need to be developed for sustainable employment generation, so that locals from smaller villages, districts and towns find jobs in their own areas/states and do not have to migrate to other more prosperous ones. Round-trips to and from urban centres will be reduced as the flow of products becomes more local because local resources (agricultural, dairy, animal husbandry, tribal produce) are being consumed locally. It will reduce the cost of producing goods in larger cities, create alternative sourcing options for the existing businesses and shift the economic action to smaller districts.
All this will need to be implemented with the help of all of the above participants, social leaders and the local industry associations too. The report suggests that a big chunk of financing (60–70 percent) should come from the private sector. Considering how things are going for them, this seems unlikely at the moment.
The state government is supposed to come up with the remaining funds, build infrastructure and offer subsidies to companies willing to relocate plants to locations where employment is needed. Also, a one-size fits all solution will not work, since all the states and their various districts/villages/towns are a microcosm of everything that is India. So a customised approach will be needed for every location, with the government acting like an enabler.
The report stated: “Typically, for a district that has a population of 2 million people, one would expect an employment generation potential in the range of 20,000 to 30,000 over a 5-year period. Approximately 25 percent will be short term, 40 percent medium term and the remaining 35 percent will require long-term employment creation. The cost of a job created, in general, will be Rs 60,000 to Rs 80,000 per job in terms of spend from the government.”
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act was put in place to provide employment and some financial sustenance to the very poor. Nagarik is aimed at the in-betweens -- Indians who are living in districts that are neither very poor nor very rich. These comprise approximately 230 Tier 2 and Tier 3 districts that makes up 58 percent of India’s population.There are challenges in implementing this and they are:
Bringing together various stakeholders who add value to the local product or service. Connecting entrepreneurs; securing financial partners; and finding a market for the products. Keeping stakeholders satisfied by meeting their requirements at the district and state level, so that they create infrastructure and provide subsidies if and when needed.
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Manali Rohinesh is a freelance writer who explores financial and non-financial subjects that pique her interest.