New Delhi: Imparting skills to India’s young is the biggest long-term challenge to keep the economy growing fast, while the size of the fiscal deficit and rate of inflation present short-term challenges to policymakers, a panel of industrialists and economists said at the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit.
According to Sunil Mittal, chairman and group CEO of Bharti Enterprises Ltd, the government’s overarching aim of making economic growth more inclusive is good for industry too.
Mittal’s observation was placed in the backdrop of the size of India’s young population. Around 320 million children between six and 16 now will need jobs over the next 10 years. If the economy was unable to absorb them then “you will have trouble,” he said.
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Mittal, Hari Bhartia, co-chairman and managing director, Jubilant Bhartia Group, Rajat Nag, managing director-general, Asian Development Bank, and Gita Gopinath, an economics professor at Harvard University, participated in a panel discussion on the economy’s outlook.
Mittal and Bhartia said India’s challenge of skilling its work force spanned all stages of education: from primary school to university level.
According to Bhartia, India’s challenge at the school level was to send a higher proportion of school students to college. About 90% of school students enter the work force directly. The aim should be to soon enhance the proportion of students going into college to at least 25%, he added.
Mittal, Bhartia and Nag were disappointed by the low level of attention paid to the quality of school education. Though the government had stepped up spending on education in the recent past, there has been little debate on the quality, Bhartia said.
“The fundamental issue is of governance and accountability,” Nag said, explaining the flaw in the current system is absence of attention on the processes involved. Bhartia and Mittal made a pitch for greater involvement of the private sector in the skilling process. “The key challenge the government faces is execution,” Bhartia said. “At this level, the private sector has to be involved.”
Mittal said global demographic trends pointed to India in the next decade housing a work force which served not just the domestic economy, but also that of the world.
The promoters of HT Media Ltd, which publishes Mint, and Jubilant Life Sciences, a Jubilant group company, are closely related. There are no promoter cross-holdings.