How will India cope with skill shortages?
Here are some recent figures released by Ficci on the terrible shortage of people that India will face in the coming five years … some hard numbers:
- Biotechnology sector: 80 percent shortfall of doctorate and post doctorate scientists.
- Food processing sector: 65 per cent shortfall of refrigeration mechanics, electricians etc. 70 percent shortfall of food safety personnel.
- Health sector: Shortage of 5 lakh ( half a million) doctors – in particular anaesthetists, radiologists, gynaecologists and surgeons (particularly neurosurgeons). Also, a shortage of 10 lakh (1 million) nurses.
- IT sector : Shortage of 5 lakhs (half a million) engineers.
- Education sector: Faculty shortage of 25-40 percent.
- Banking and Finance sector: 50-80 percent personnel shortage.
- Aviation sector: Severe shortage of pilots.
- Textile sector: Will create 10 lakhs (1 million) jobs in the next few years due to rapid expansion.
- Pharma sector: Severe shortage of top pharma scientists as research expenditure by pharma companies has quadrupled in the last 5 years. Thus there is a shortage of middle-level and junior scientists too. This has made salaries of top pharma scientists rise to US levels.
Semi-skilled and skilled labour: The shortage of factory workers and construction labourers is already being felt across industries.
Action Plan of the government:
This is what the government has done/planned, and explained by the PM in a recent speech:
As per recommendations of the Knowledge Commission, by 2015, India should attain a gross enrollment ratio (in higher educational instituions) of at least 15 percent if we are to be in line with most modern societies. Such a quantum jump in our university system has to be well planned and well funded… our Government has started new national institutions in the fields of science, technology and medicine. In the last 100 years, we have had only one Indian Institute of Science. In past two years, we have sanctioned six more. We have opened new national institutes in medical sciences, engineering and management…we intend to establish 30 new Central Universities across the country. The work on the modalities for setting these up has begun and the Ministry of Human resource Development, the UGC and the Planning Commission are working to operationalize this in the next 2-3 months. This expansion is going to be a landmark in expanding access to high quality education across the country.
Hope for the hundreds of eager youngsters in schools today. They will (hopefully) not suffer the same fate as present generations who have had far fewer opportunities to get into good quality educational institutions.
It’s quality that people are concerned about. Why, last Saturday a girl killed herself, not because she didn’t get admission into college, but because she didn’t get admission into a college of her choice. And this poor girl wasn’t even trying for a professional seat in an engineering or medical college, she was trying for a seat in the 11th grade!!
Just take the example of our medical education. Its in shambles. Hundreds of hopefuls cannot get a medical education in India because of the ridiculously high level of competition. There are just too few seats in the reputed government colleges (their fees are affordable.) And as for private colleges, they are beyond the reach of the middle classes and its not just because of their tuition fees. Lakhs of rupees are taken as ‘donations’ and so unless you are academically brilliant or rich, you can forget about being a doctor.
And as for our primary education, the less said the better. Its in terrible shape (government schools) and I know intelligent children who live in the slums who have little hope of even grabbing jobs of sales people or even telephone operaters because of the poor education they are being imparted today. These millions of children are destined to languish in the slums even when they are adults…its just sad!
Why are the Indians living abroad not coming back in droves?
I think of this frequently, perhaps because some cousins who I felt close to have gone forever and so have several of my very good friends.
Now that our economy has improved, why can’t people like them, people who are educated, try to come back? Educated people in India can get good jobs and a decent standard of living, though not as high as they might get abroad. Some feel the trend is reversing…but I think it’s more because the western countries are becoming more stringent about immigration, green cards, citizenship etc. Those Indians who do return voluntarily either do it because they want their children to grow up here or because of the responsibility of old parents.
The truth is that few people feel they can adjust to a life in India after living for years abroad. Its more than just about physical comforts and money. It could be a more professional environment at work, or it could be just being able to get things done more quickly and professionally over there. Whether it’s getting a licence or a cinema ticket!
And from what I hear from some of my younger cousins who have migrated, they are happier there because there are no relatives to interfere in their life, be it in-laws, parents or aunts and uncles. You can lead a completely independent life out there, which is in stark contrast to life here. I don’t know how important a factor this is for people who make the final decision to live in a foreign country, but I would really like to know.
Ofcourse, every individual has a right to carve a better life for themselves…but the reality is that India needs these people to come back. With their international exposure, their contribution will be invaluable to India. Don’t those who live abroad want to be part of India’s growth, even if they have to pay a price for it?
Update: I wrote this post early morning and therefore missed the news item that appeared today in DNA. It says that a faculty shortage is hampering the growth of IIM and this “dearth of teaching staff” is impeding the institutes’ entry into the top B-schools of the world. Apparently there are government restrictions on salaries and therefore the schools find it a struggle to attract the best talent. Again its not quantity, but the quality which matters to the IIM’s and they are simply not getting enough of the best.
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