Changing Skill Development Models for the Purpose of Poverty Alleviation


Skilling increases employability thereby alleviating poverty


Co-authored by Prof. Madhushree Sekher (TISS)

In India, vocational skills and skill development strategy represent a multi-level approach to understanding knowledge systems, spatial realities and capital concerned with poverty, livelihood needs and employability opportunities. To address these issues, governments – both central and provincial – have devised methods and taken steps to push reforms and agendas linked to poverty alleviation and employment, over time. These methods and steps are connected, broadly, to three interrelated questions of:
1. Poverty alleviation and its links to vulnerabilities and deprivations related to hunger, malnutrition (SDG-2), health and well-being (SDG-3);
2. Efforts to understand and capture socio-economic vulnerabilities and poverty, and the relation of policies for economic transformation and transparent reporting;
3. How can skilling and entrepreneurship initiatives be created in cooperation with local bodies and sync with community needs (SDG-10)?
Therefore, there arises a need to create tools to examine local challenges and to map the same at the district and state levels. In order to do so, a response must have:
– Support from industry/ corporate houses (through Corporate Social Responsibility);
– Help strengthen start-ups and non-government initiatives, and
– Create links with the local government system (given power, functionaries) to address the community level livelihood needs and employability concerns.
This multi-dimensional skill-development strategy is at the core to deal with poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, social problems, poor awareness about nutrition and poor access or quality of health services so that economic development is achieved on all fronts. The institutional conditions and processes are to be understood in terms of geography to capture spatial diversity and the costs or burdens involved. This has implications on the challenge of skilling and vocational opportunities for a highly diverse population, who are at different stages of ‘formalisation’.
Thus, mere privatisation of skilling in India and top-down approaches to our understanding of skilling ignore and exclude marginal groups and invisible knowledge systems and resources – the skilling process also needs to address this. For instance, in the urban context, spatial understanding of people residing in informal housing needs further examination by engagement with people over longer timeframes to understand their livelihoods and skill requirements. For instance, the role of corporates through CSR can be allocating funds and conducting long-term research within these communities to understand initiatives to peace-building and innovation. This will support and provide qualitative and quantitative data about techniques, businesses and skills of people in the settlements.
The gaps in service delivery have been an important concern of governance across India, within urban and rural communities. In many cases, these issues are embedded in the local practices and affect the flow of resources, and at the same time, impact social well-being and put vulnerable populations, including women and children, at greater risk. The skill development and entrepreneurship strategy to deal with India’s poverty issues cannot be disengaged from an understanding of the local contexts, and this requires skill-mapping exercises through process-based enquiries into structures at various levels of the community systems. It is, therefore, important that this focus on self-reliance and emphasis on the local for skilling and entrepreneurship development needs a bottom-up perspective to planning and governance.
The challenges in India are concerned with the economy’s structural shortcomings and legacy institutions that are hampered by bureaucracy and red tape. The jugaad economy (the informal sector) has primarily remained outside the formal economy and has benefitted little from economic development. This jugaad economy outlines an agenda for skill development as a strategy for poverty alleviation in the country.
One of the key reasons for India’s failure to address this knowledge gap is the ‘cost’ associated with connecting with ‘the last mile’. Insights about innovative initiatives (seen as the encounters of poor with formal economy and state) provide grounded inputs towards integrating this jugaad economy into the mainstream practice and policy discourses around skill-development, innovation and entrepreneurship.
India must attempt a bottom-up approach in skilling initiatives to address both horizontal and vertical inequalities. This requires a more robust implementation of governance frameworks starting at the level of community. In understanding implementation challenges, critical aspects of governance lost at the macro-level can be traced and addressed.
This article was published in the July 2021 edition of our magazine. Click here to grab your copy. A version of this article was presented as a paper jointly authored by Prof. Madhushree Sekher (TISS) and Balbir Singh Aulakh for the ‘Online Workshop on Poverty Alleviation’ organised by The Free Press Journal, SIES College of Arts, Science and Commerce and Yunnan University on 24 May 2021. 


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