Rapid population growth is set to make India the world’s most populous country by 2025. With the country’s youth entering the workforce in growing numbers every year and frequently migrating to large urban centers to seek opportunity, India has the opportunity to reap a “demographic dividend” from its young population. Yet millions of young people come to cities from disadvantaged backgrounds with little to no prior education and lack the basic skills to obtain gainful employment. At the same time, the parallel expansion of India’s high-growth industries requires a skilled workforce – resulting in a fundamental imbalance in the labor market. Skills development holds the key to India’s ability to activate the vast potential of its youth population for inclusive growth and to evolve as the hub of the global economy.
The Market Aligned Skills Training (MAST) works to address this systemic imbalance by providing unemployed young people with a comprehensive skills training that equips them with the knowledge and skills needed to secure employment and succeed on the job. MAST not only meets the growing demands of the diversifying local industries across the country, it harnesses India’s youth population to become powerful engines of the economy.
Skills development holds the key to India’s ability to activate vast potential of its youth population for inclusive growth and to evolve as the hub of the global economy.
MAST begins with a labor market scan in each region, working closely with employers to develop the market-aligned training curricula that form the heart of the program’s skills training. Set over a period of three months, the training combines foundational, workforce readiness skills with industry-specific skills, ranging from retail, basic IT, healthcare to hospitality, creating multi-sector job opportunities for marginalized young people. Upon completion of the training, qualified candidates are placed into entry-level jobs, creating a path to financial independence. In addition to private employment partners such as Reliance and ICICI Bank, MAST is aligned with the framework of the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC).
According to the International Labor Organization, one out of every seven people in the world has a disability, and approximately 70 million people with disabilities live in India. 60% are able to take care of themselves without any assistance, and yet 60% are unemployed. Attitudes about disabilities often range from dismissiveness to avoidance to fear, and many disabled in India still battle a stigma when it comes to professional employment. As a result, people with disabilities face much difficulty finding professional employment and caring for themselves and their families. Of those who do find work, an overwhelming 98.5% work in the informal economy, lacking access to many social and financial services.
Ability-Based Livelihood Empowerment (ABLE) responds to these challenges by working to ensure that persons with disabilities are able to obtain equal, inclusive and dignified livelihoods. AIF’s Market Aligned Skills Training (MAST) Program has worked towards skill development and access to employment for persons with disabilities since 2010. Empowering India’s differently-abled, ABLE builds skillsets and facilitates access to employment, while also promoting acceptance of disabilities in the larger community.
Like its parent program, Market Aligned Skills Training (MAST), ABLE conducts a labor market scan in each region, working closely with employers to develop the market-aligned training curricula that form the heart of the program’s skills training. ABLE supports and builds the capacity of NGOs working specifically with persons with disabilities, and develops curricula for sectors of employment where the differently-abled can find employment. The program also creates a common platform for the employment of persons with disabilities, bringing together multiple stakeholders from governments, NGOs, and private sector industries to promote and advocate for disability inclusion.
In many cities, cycle rickshaws are a primary form of public transit. With few barriers to entry and little requirement of skill or capital, the occupation is one of the most common for recent migrants to urban centers who arrive in search of a better way of life. Despite providing cost-effective and “green” transportation, the eight million rickshaw drivers in urban India are some of the country’s most marginalized workers. Not only do rickshaw drivers make substandard wages doing laborious work that barely sustains their families, but they also remain indebted to vehicle owners who charge malicious daily rent and are routinely subjected to stigma, harassment by police and pressure to pay bribes. As recent migrants to cities, they lack legal residence and cannot access the basic services required to build a livelihood for their families – including opening a bank account or accessing credit.
The Rickshaw Sangh is changing the industry paradigm by promoting asset ownership of rickshaws and providing access to a suite of social benefits to dignify the profession and ensure a sustainable livelihood for rickshaw drivers and their families.
The Rickshaw Sangh secures an identity for individual rickshaw drivers through key social benefits – including an identity card, driver’s license, permit and uniform – and in turn mobilizes drivers into collectives and links them to commercial credit facilities to access formal credit and thus entry into the formal financial sector. Rickshaw collectives take joint responsibility for a group of loans, guaranteed by AIF, for which they can own their own vehicles through easy weekly repayments over a period of one year.
This life-changing asset creates a multiplier effect – by enabling economic freedom for drivers and by transforming their families. Joint spousal ownership of rickshaws, alongside newfound financial and social literacy skills, builds collective responsibility and entrepreneurialism that empowers spouses, drivers, and their children to create micro-enterprises of their own. The combination of asset ownership and social services not only have helped to formalize this industry as a whole, but also enhance drivers’ social standing and empower them with life skills and tools that have far-reaching impact. With their “new” identities, drivers can now access critical services such as education, healthcare, voter registration, and ration cards – and further credit from financial institutions for additional economic opportunities.
Many rural women play significant roles in their family’s livelihoods, yet illiteracy and traditional gender roles too often limit their roles to unskilled labor, restricting them from entrepreneurial activities. In rural areas of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the two most common livelihoods – agriculture and animal husbandry – face persistent threats of drought, and villagers are unable to benefit from government schemes that concentrate in and around industrial centers. Resource-poor families in these rural areas, particularly those who own little or no land, are forced to migrate to urban centers in search of unskilled work, often as bonded laborers.
The Dairy Collective builds bridges for families living in underserved rural communities to participate in the local economy by providing opportunities to create sustainable livelihoods that are not dependent on farming, overcoming the obstacle of scarce resources in an arid climate and allowing rural populations to thrive. Through women’s self-help groups and access to business services, Dairy Collective empowers women not only to become independent, self-reliant entrepreneurs – but also to gain equitable status within their family and community as decision-makers and business owners.
The project creates a sustainable economic system through the creation of community groups and providing access to credit for the purchase of livestock and other non-farm assets. Self-help groups establish collectively owned and operated milk collection centers, which the self-employed women federate into market-led business ventures.
The project supports these ventures with the organization, startup resources, and critical inputs – including feed, veterinary services, procurement, and marketing services for the collection and sale of milk –that empower women to access natural resources and build their collective capacities to manage resources and run enterprises in a sustainable manner. Value-add services such as the management of animal care and breeding, investment in appropriate technology such as bulk cooling units, milk collection optimization, and market linkages in nearby towns and villages enable women to further benefit from existing government policies such as microcredit and other financial services. The systems created by these interventions empower these women and their families to be self-reliant and secure in their livelihoods.