National Summit on Bridging Skill Gaps in Industry 4.0

Inaugural session address by Ms. Dagmar Walter, Director, DWT South Asia and India Country Office at the National Summit on Bridging Skill Gaps in Industry 4.0 organized by PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI).

Statement | New Delhi | 13 September 2019
  • Namaskar and Good Morning!
  • Honorable Minister Dr. Rawat,
  • Members of PHDCCI,
  • Respected officials from the government,
  • Dignitaries from international agencies and embassies,
  • Academia,
  • Colleagues and friends,

A very warm welcome to all of you. I am very pleased to be part of the National Summit on Bridging Skill Gaps in Industry 4.0. As one of the leading industry chambers in India, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, you have a key role to play in building awareness among members to promote Decent Work at their workplace and in the supply chain. People are at the core of competitive enterprises and it is the skills of employees that determine the ability of the enterprise to effectively respond to market changes. In this context, today’s deliberation on ‘Bridging Skill Gaps in Industry’ is pertinent, especially at a time when the world of work is rapidly going through a transformative change.

2019 marks the ILO’s centenary. For a hundred years, the ILO has brought together its tripartite constituents - governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations to be able to tackle the greatest challenges in the world of work through social dialogue. And these consultations have helped to ensure the continued improvement of international labour standards, policies, and practices.

The primary mandate of the ILO is to support its 187 member states, in achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all, especially for women and young people. Our goal is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG 8, which aims at, ‘promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all’.

Skilling is an important mean to avail a decent job – a job that is productive, fair, remunerative, and safe. It is not surprising therefore, that 2030 Sustainable Development Goal agenda places a special emphasis under SDG 4 to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’.

So what could be fundamental pillars for India to progress towards its goal to achieve decent jobs and skilling opportunities? Globalization and the advent of technology and automation are offering new job opportunities for the industry. To fully capitalize its potential, emerging economies like India need to invest in establishing a labour market information system which will provide reliable and real-time data on labour market trends with analytics. This will guide the employers, workers and the government in designing short and medium-term skilling interventions to match industry needs.

54% of India’s population is below 25 years of age and over 62% of the population is in the working-age group. By 2025, almost 1 in 5 of the world’s working-age individual (18.3%) will be Indian. Yet, only 4.69% of the Indian population has undergone formal skills training. It hints at the vast informal economy where 92 percent of the population is employed and skills are acquired on-the-job or traditionally.

Further, an estimated 77 percent of Indians are in vulnerable employment, which is characterized by inadequate earnings, low productivity and difficult conditions of work that undermine workers' fundamental rights.

A cohesive strategy to catalyze a transition to a formal economy is, therefore, the need of the hour. This will include - certifying learning outcomes and validating or recognizing informal and non-formal learnings. It will incentivize individuals to invest in training and to learn new skills at work.

Workers in MSMEs and own-account workers accounting for 50 percent of the economy are under-represented in training. This is despite, MSMEs are gaining recognition as the engine of growth in the country. Their increased participation can be achieved by re-designing tax systems to encourage adult learning and by providing financial support to alleviate the costs of learning. It could also mean improving systems for career guidance and creating opportunities for the recognition of skills acquired on the job.

For small firms, targeted initiatives to encourage skill needs assessment and training provision are also important measures to reach low skilled and own-account workers considering they are less likely to participate in training activities. The employers have a key role to play in mobilizing them. And so do also the large and medium enterprises. They can influence the MSMEs in the supply chain to invest in skilling of their employees, because competitive enterprise also improves the overall productivity across the supply chain, thus driving the sectoral competitiveness.

The validation or recognition of non-formal and informal learning in India has the potential to improve skill matching needs of the labour market. It will help the employers to identify the skills job seekers already have.

National education and training systems need to strengthen the programs and services offered. Interdisciplinary training that allows students to develop core work skills and knowledge through experiential learning, quality apprenticeships and other forms of work-based learning shall be promoted. It will ensure that initial education and training provides relevant and high-quality skills to smoothen the school to work transition of young people.

Skilling programs have to increasingly cover a range of subjects beyond narrow occupational classifications. It will deliver more fluid and trans-disciplinary skill sets enabling workers and employers to adapt to an uncertain and rapidly changing market. It also calls for flexible education such as modularised courses and flexible delivery methodologies, including blended learning that improves access to learning opportunities and labour arrangements.

As markets evolve and the nature of employment changes. Thus, training provision and participation should be accessible and encouraged throughout the employee’s lifecycle. Particularly for the low-skilled workers who are more vulnerable towards automation. To this end, increased funding for adult learning will be needed. Along with financial support, it will be essential to address non-financial barriers. Thus, provision of guidance, counselling, childcare and support services and flexible training hours would have to be introduced.

Efforts must be made to make the most of the opportunities offered by new technologies in the delivery of training. New technologies, such as online and mobile-based training, can reduce the costs, and improve availability, and accessibility. Central to these is a need for sound monitoring and evaluation to ensure cost-effectiveness and quality of the training programs.

The Centenary Declaration that was adopted at the International Labour Conference this June underscores the need to invest in people through a human-cantered approach to move forward and create the perspectives for a just and sustainable future of work. And its enthusiastic adoption by 187 ILO member States including India, shows that the political will is also there.

In closing, let me highlight the following:
  • First, it is important to remember that the future of work is not predetermined and it is difficult to estimate how it will impact on jobs and skills needs. However, reliable and real-time data on the labour market, could help the constituents to update their skilling requirements, strategies and actions.
  • Second, concerted efforts towards formalization of job, and integration of lifelong learning opportunities for employees in formal and informal sectors need to be made.
It is most important for the industry to think ‘what the future of work you want’ and work towards it to build that future.

Thank you for your kind attention!