Skill empowerment is enabling market-oriented and required skills to make youth employable gainfully. That is to say that it is a necessary condition for gainful employment in an economy. It can also make a person contribute his own labour, intellectual as well as physical to his own business rather than work for somebody. Therefore, it leads to a path to effective self-employment. The government started many schemes to boost skill empowerment and self-employment accordingly such as Jammu and Kashmir State Self Employment Scheme run by Employment Department at the district level. For secondary and tertiary sectors government launched Prime Ministers Employment Generation Programme for both rural and urban areas. Handicrafts sector has been important to of our economy. For its artisan work shed cum housing scheme was designed for improving his working conditions and quality and efficiency of life. It is very unfortunate that government has failed to impart appropriate skills and training to youth which resulted in gaps and mismatches in the national and international job markets. Jammu and Kashmir State Overseas Employment Corporation Limited (JKSOECL) is the classic example as it failed to provide placement overseas to unemployed youth of the state even after ten years of its establishment.
Apart from self-employment schemes, the government also designed skill empowerment schemes for providing necessary skills and knowledge to youth so that they can seek employment and placement in the market alongside gaining suitable skills. Himaayat and Udaan schemes are running here. Furthermore, in different departments, many skill or employment-related schemes are operating for providing jobs and skills to the unemployed youth in general and educated unemployed youth in particular. But the problem is that instead of spending money on skill empowerment and training they spend substantial amounts on vast administrative outlays and other unproductive means. Money is being spent on infrastructure development, managing staff, bonuses, and huge salaries of top managers etc. Therefore, these sectoral initiatives fail severely. Also low educated and rural people are unaware of these schemes and their benefits.
The livestock and handicrafts are highly labour-intensive sectors with their ability to accommodate poor and absorb large pool of skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled workers. Therefore, both sectors are very important for skill empowerment. Livestock has the potential to improve agricultural income and output. The government, therefore, should encourage the investments in agriculture and its allied areas such as dairy farming, poultry farming, sheep farming, and better technology for good fodder to strengthen the economy by increasing income and employment of the people and attracting private investments. In fact, in J&K the livestock business is both profitable and easy to start a business which is why demand better ideas and skills. J&K is famous for Handicrafts sector with a fine tradition of craftsman providing employment to 4-5 lakh artisans, more than 150 major craft clusters, and self-employment to 10000 persons annually. But the problem associated with this sector is that the income earned by the craftsman is of subsistence level which is why they are underperforming as they get disheartened and demotivated. Also, we find underperformance in this sector as a result of many factors such as lack of strong Kashmiri branding, old designs, stiff competition from low-cost machine-made goods, and a large number of intermediaries. The rich business class associated with this sector are minting money at the cost of skills and crafts of low-income craftsman. With the result, the handicraft sector hardly finds young energetic people because experienced craftsmen don’t involve their children in this sector. Budding craftsman and entrepreneurs do not try to make it as their carrier. The traditional business progresses if it is involved with young skilled blood at regular intervals of time.
In pandemic times when the movement has been restricted it is very necessary to revitalize our traditional sectors especially livestock and handicrafts. All the bottlenecks have to be removed and we should impart better and job-oriented skills to our youth so that they progress. The government should take all major steps and efforts to provide gainful employment to the youth of Jammu and Kashmir. Keeping in view the bad political economy and COVID-19 shock, possibilities and opportunities have to be carved out for absorption and adjustment of the youth by way of creating cost-effective self-employment and skill development prospects in both government and private sector. The growth model of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) is suitable way out in which private sectors will provide a helping hand to government for undertaking productive development projects by sharing profits.
Our economy has a large pool of talent and human resource that is educated but unemployed due to many reasons. But, lack of appropriate job skills, soft skills, life skills, and practical knowledge are important reasons. It is very essential to engage youth in skill development tasks for improving employment prospects and for that matter we must invite different departments of the state (core in particular) and successful companies to join hands with (and help) educational institutions. This will for sure improve employability per year and adjust youth in different sectors of the economy.
Binish Qadri, ICSSR Doctoral Fellow pursuing Ph.D. in Economics at Department of Economics, Central University of Kashmir