The Challenge of Youth Employment

Theme 1. The Challenge of Youth Employment

The creation of decent employment for the youth is a global challenge which has dominated the policy discourse for the last several decades. The issue has been discussed more in developed countries as the youth unemployment rates have been considerably high in these countries. In developing countries, with exceptions like South Africa, the levels of youth, unemployment have generally been lower. This has been mainly due to prevalence of poverty and lower educational attainments in these countries. However, of late most of the developing countries are witnessing higher levels of youth unemployment and this has become a major policy concern.

In India the youth unemployment rates have increased in recent years, particularly for those with higher level of education. India, at present, is home to the largest population of youth in the world. Its working age population including youth is still showing a rise, unlike most developed countries, where the elderly population has been increasing steadily and the growth of the working age population has been slowing down. This demographic advantage is likely to remain for at least another decade. At the same time, the increasing number of around 5 million people who are entering the labour force each year is an important challenge which is further accentuated by the technological changes. Further, there has been a growing enrolment of youth in secondary and tertiary levels of education, which has resulted in the supply of better-skilled workforce. However, there has been a significant increase in unemployment rates for the youth from 7.6 per cent in 2011-12 to 16.6 per cent in 2019-20. A more serious concern is the increasing unemployment among educated youth. For young women, the employment situation is worse in terms of labour force participation as well as lack of jobs.

In India the level of formal vocational/training is quite low. Only about 3% of the population reported receiving formal vocational/technical training in 2019-20. This is in sharp contrast to youth receiving such training in developed countries where the percentages range between 50-80%. Although most of the training in India is informal which our statistical system is not able to capture, there is no doubt that the level of vocational/technical training is low in the country. Further, the growing number of persons ‘Not in Employment, Education and Training (NEET)’ is also a serious concern – 34.4% of youth were in NEET in 2019-20. There have been several interventions by the government to address this issue and a number of policies and programmes have been launched with mixed results.

In the above context, the following are some of the indicative topics for prospective paper writers on this theme.

  • What are the global trends in youth employment and unemployment in both developed and developing countries? Do the trends differ between developed and developing countries?
  • What are the pattern and trends of youth employment in India? Whether these patterns and trends differ across states, rural-urban, gender and social groups? If the differences are significant, what are the underlying factors?
  • How does the youth employment status and quality differ across formal-informal, occupation and sectoral distribution compared to adults?
  • How is increasing enrolment rate in higher education and rising level of education among youth changing the supply and demand pattern in the labour market?
  • What are the factors for the high unemployment rates among educated youth, particularly those having better education? Whether there is a lack of enough suitable jobs as per their educational qualification? Is there a skill mismatch in the labour market?
  • Why educated women's unemployment rates are substantially higher than their male counterparts? Which factors could enable more educated young women to participate in the labour market?
  • What is the status of youth in NEET, and why has the share of youth in NEET increased over the years? Who are these youths, and why they are idle?
  • Which factors can play important roles in the smooth school-to-work transition of youth? What are the best international practices that India can follow to improve the school-to-work transition of youth?
  • New technology and digitalisation are changing the demand for skills and nature of work in the Indian labour market. How are youth affected by these changes?
  • What are the impacts of COVID-19 on employment of youth in the labour market?
  • Does the gig economy have enough potential to provide suitable jobs to the increasing number of unemployed youths especially women in India? Which policies can make the gig jobs more suitable to meet the aspiration levels of the youth?
  • Have the various skill and vocational training initiatives of the government achieved the desired results? What are the reasons for the success, and failure of skills and vocational training schemes? What can India learn from international experiences?
  • What are the new active labour market policies, and schemes introduced by the government in recent years, and how have these initiatives benefitted the youth population? What are the challenges in implementation and possible solutions to improve the schemes?

Papers are welcome on the implications for youth employment of the other two themes of the conference, the Covid pandemic and rural diversification. The above themes are only indicative and prospective paper writers can choose other relevant topics/sub-topics from the broad theme.