- The dynamic nature of poverty
- People-first approach to smart cities
- Can job fairs solve India’s employment mismatch?
The dynamic nature of poverty
GS (M) Paper-1 Topics: “Poverty and Developmental issues”
GS (M) Paper-2 Topics: “Issues relating to poverty and hunger.”
The concept of poverty is fundamentally different from that of poverty three decades ago, and that safety nets need to be tailored to meet the needs of a society in transition.
Most of our anti-poverty policies rely on identifying the poor by using Below Poverty Line (BPL) Censuses conducted approximately once every 10 years.
- The concept of poverty is dynamic in nature. For example, poor households may move out of poverty and the non-poor may become poor over a period of time. Achieving this recognition entails a complete transformation in our mindset.
- Our approach to poverty is that we want to cover the maximum number of people, consequently diluting the support that we are able to provide the poor. For example, according to empirical data, in spite of a decline in poverty, the proportion of the population receiving welfare benefits has risen sharply.
- Despite the massive expansion in the coverage of welfare programmes, the incomes and subsidies accruing from them still account for a relatively small proportion of the overall household budget of the poor. Thus, while the burden of these programmes on the public exchequer may be huge, their impact on households is relatively limited.
- The number of welfare schemes has proliferated beyond belief. However, most of the supposed beneficiaries has never heard of these schemes.
- Moreover, our country has the tendency to initiate schemes without setting aside enough funds to successfully implement them, thereby almost willing them to failure.
- We often fail to think of the unintended consequences of our policies. For example,
- The Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) covers hospital costs but not outpatient services. Consequently, many patients delay treatment until the severity of their medical conditions forces them into hospitalisation, which, in turn adversely affects their health and increases public expenditure.
- Similarly, the focus on cereals in the PDS encourages people to obtain most of their calories from cereals and reduces dietary diversity.
Restructuring social safety nets:
Fundamentally restructuring social safety nets necessitates meeting three key challenges:
- Identifying those in need of assistance in the context of rapid economic changes;
- Efficiently delivering this assistance to prevent unintended consequences which may pervert the very purpose of social safety nets; and
- Ensuring that this assistance is meaningful rather than simply tantamount to applying a bandage to a cancer.
Each of these challenges needs to be addressed through a pragmatic approach devoid of the burden of any ideology.
- One strategy could be to start with simple and limited goals while attacking the problem more potently to make a meaningful dent. It would make sense to divide social safety net policies into three categories:
- Provision of back-up manual work at below market wages to those who are able to work;
- Provision of insurance against catastrophic events such as health-care emergencies or crop failure that push people into poverty;
- Provision of cash support, say in the form of old age pension, to people who are no longer able to work.
- MGNREGA offers an excellent model for employment programmes in rural areas, which could be expanded to urban areas.
- High wages paid under this programme may encourage people to work for MGNREGA instead of resorting to other forms of employment, though since this is not a desirable outcome, the wages offered must be below market wages.
- These employment programmes must be universally available for the promised 100 days.
- The number of crop and health insurance programmes is growing but a better framework is needed to prevent cost escalation, as has been observed in the United States.
- While old age and disability pension schemes exist, they need to provide a greater level of benefits and offer easier access.
- For all these programmes to work, we must first recognise the need for drastically revamping our traditional policies in a growing economy so that they can also focus on the accidents of life rather than solely on the accidents of birth.
People-first approach to smart cities
GS (M) Paper-1 Topics: “Urbanization, their problems and their remedies”
Today, India is at the cusp of an urban explosion with an unabated pace of urbanization, propelled by the continuous influx of people from the rural hinterland, putting unprecedented pressure on urban infrastructure and service delivery mechanisms of various agencies.
It is a proven fact that the engagement and involvement of citizens and businesses play a critical role in making urbanization successful.
The best results can be ensured only when citizens and businesses are at the centre of all such sustainable development models.
A smart city is a place where everything is immensely efficient yet as humane as possible. Thus, the solutions needed must leverage both technology capacity and human capacity by taking a people-first approach.
Microsoft’s CityNext initiative puts people first and builds on this new era of collaborative technology to engage citizens, business and government leaders in new ways.
About Microsoft CityNext:
Officially launched in 2013, Microsoft CityNext is a global initiative intended to build “smart cities” around the world.
- CityNext aims to connect functions like energy, water, infrastructure, transportation, public safety, tourism, recreation, education, health and social services, and government administrations.
- CityNext uses a combination of cloud technology, mobile applications, data analytics and social networks to provide real-time data of all civic services.
- The CityNext initiative helps cities enable self-sustaining cycles of innovation that involve whole institutions and individual citizens alike.
Surat – India’s first ‘smart city’ under the CityNext initiative:
In 2014, Microsoft Corp has selected Surat, Gujarat to develop it as India’s first ‘smart city’ under the CityNext initiative.
Facilities under the CityNext initiative include, for example,
- If any person wants to know the location of a doctor in the city, they can easily get it on their mobile with the apps that will be developed by Microsoft.
- Currently, the city’s police department and Surat Traffic Education Trust, a private and public partnership, are using a Microsoft platform to enhance safety by assisting the city police to proactively monitor, analyse and respond to security and crime threats. This has significantly reduced the response time of law enforcing officers, ultimately making the city safer.
Can job fairs solve India’s employment mismatch?
GS (M) Paper-3 Topics: “Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.”
The job fair in Noida, held on 20 July at National Institute of Career Services (NICS), was the first of several that the labour ministry plans to organize across the country to fix the employment mismatch on a “mission mode”. NICS is a training institute of the labour ministry.
Employment scenario in India:
- India has a real job problem on hand. Twelve million young men and women are entering the job market every year, but there simply aren’t enough jobs for them.
- On the other hand, companies say job-market entrants are not employment-ready.
- Poor employment generation in the face of better economic growth is a problem that dates back decades.
- According to the labour bureau, an arm of the labour ministry, in 2014, eight key manufacturing and export-oriented sectors, including IT/BPO, textiles and automobiles, created less than half a million (421,000) jobs, and in 2015, the numbers were less than 200,000.
- Given the huge number of young people joining the Indian job market, the increase in organized-sector jobs is just a fraction of the requirement. For example, in 1991, total employment in the organized sector was 26.73 million and in 2012, it was 29.58 million. That’s a gain of just 2.85 million jobs in 21 years.
Significance of job fair:
A job fair may not be much, though some believe it is a good first step.
- Bringing job candidates, employers, counsellors and trainers under one roof and proving guidance on self-employment and entrepreneurship is the way forward.
- Through organizing job fair, the government and private collaboration will create a lot of opportunities for job-seekers.
Concerns regarding job fair:
- At this job fair, the problem faced by companies is the lack of job-ready candidates.
- While companies are talking about the lack of job-readiness among candidates, they are not even disclosing the profiles on offer or the salary structure.
- It is evident that there is confusion and ambiguity in the entire selection process.
Government’s efforts towards generating adequate job opportunities:
- The government had renewed efforts to help young people find employment, a tough task in the face of sluggish jobs growth. Generating adequate job opportunities has been the first priority of the government
- The labour ministry argues it has taken up job fairs for better matching of employers and employees. It plans to conduct one job fair every month.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has spoken of the need for “job creators” as against “job seekers”.
- In the past one year, the government has announced several incentive packages for companies for both skill training as well as creating new jobs to improve the employment scenario.
- The Union cabinet approved an outlay of Rs. 22,000 crore in July alone for the promotion of apprenticeship and skill training. Most of this money will go to companies for effective implementation of the initiatives.
About National Career Service:
- National Career Service (NCS) project is an initiative launched by the Ministry of Labour and Employment as a Mission Mode Project for establishing quick and efficient career related services.
- It was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 20 July 2015 as part of government’s focus on providing right skills and generating employment.
- Its objective is to support varied stakeholders with better career information, easily available jobs and other employment related services.
- Its vision is to provide a national platform for interface between stakeholders for responsive, transparent and efficient employment services in order to meet skill needs of a dynamic economy.
- The NCS program is accessible through web based and provides a large number of employment related services to the Indian populous. These services are supported by a Toll free no 1800-425-1514 and are accessible through a network of Common Service Centres and Model Career Centers etc.
- It provides various career related services like – job search, career counselling, information on skill training programs/career options, job postings, organize and participate in job fairs, finding blue collared local service providers (LSPs) like plumbers, electricians etc.
- NCS is the converging point for Government of India three major initiatives, Skill India, Digital India and Make in India, that aim to provide skilled manpower, improve digital infrastructure and generate employment opportunities for all.
- The Career Centres will serve as a platform for addressing all career related needs of the youth and students seeking counselling, job search assistance services and employment.
- Enhancing career and employment opportunities
- Enhancing quality of workforce
- Enhancing female labour force participation
- Entrepreneurial endeavours
- Engaging with rural workforce for higher productivity
- Re-employment (second-life) opportunities
- Transition of workforce from informal to formal sectors
National Career Service (NCS) Portal:
Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the launch of National Career Service (NCS) Portal to be implemented by the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
Who’ll benefit from NCS:
- Unemployed candidates seeking jobs
- Students seeking career counselling
- Candidates seeking vocational / occupational guidance
- Illiterate, under-privileged sections of society, blue-collar workers seeking placements and guidance
- Person with different abilities (PWDs), ex-servicemen, veterans / senior citizens, etc.
- Employers seeking suitable candidates
The government’s incentives to companies, in a way, are a medium-term plan for improving job creation, as the government realizes that the number of people entering the labour market far outnumbers the number of jobs on offer. Till the time labour-intensive sectors like manufacturing picks up, the problem cannot be solved effectively.[Ref: LiveMint]