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25 May


 Howrah, West Bengal - Women attending the vocational training program at the Samaritan Help Mission school in the Tikiapara slums of Howrah, West Bengal, India.

India needs a new approach to women’s vocational training

Amanbir Singh

As part of its policy push to increase India’s skilled workforce, the Government of India is attempting to improve participation among women in vocational training. But despite its ambitious targets, the new National Policy for Skill Development, released this month, seemingly copies a cocktail of provisions that didn’t work for the previous government.

The new policy sets the target for female participation in vocational training courses at 30 percent by 2017. That’s the same goal the Congress-led government set in the previous policy, a goal it failed to achieve.

The new policy also copies many of the previous policy’s prescriptions, calling for more “hostels for women, scholarships, transport, training materials and loans.”

Under the previous policy there was a sharp increase in the number of Industrial Training Institutes from 7,886 in 2009 to 9,447 in 2012. The training capacity increased from 1,062,524 to 1,335,488. By 2012, there were also 449 Women’s Industrial Training Institutes and 960 women’s training wings in ITIs.

But there’s no evidence to suggest that adopting this strategy generated a positive impact on women’s skilling in India.

Take for example a study by the Population Council in the state of Rajasthan comparing the status of adolescents in 2007 and 2012. This study shows that the number of unmarried men between 15 and 19 who had received training increased from 15 to 19 percent, while the percentage of unmarried women in the same age group who had received training fell from 23 to 21 percent.

It’s critical that India fix this now. The problems with low female participation in training are echoed in the labor market. The share of working-age women in jobs actually fell from 29 to 24 percent between 2004 and 2013, while most countries in the world saw women’s participation rise.

India will never harness the power of its massive youth population to drive a new wave of growth if half its capable workers are at home.

With current measures failing to encourage Indian women to join the labor market as skilled workers, the most worrying sign is that the newly released policy doesn’t outline any new vision. The government must use its forthcoming survey on skill development to understand better the obstacles facing women and design targeted policies to tackle them.

About the Author

Amanbir Singh is a Research Coordinator at JustJobs Network.

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