How to Encourage Significant Skilled Manpower

Replicating what happened in China over the past 40 years is nearly futile, yet skilling workers for new jobs that are needed and which serve a need in the economy are easily possible

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The country with the most skilled manpower will certainly be among the most economically powerful in the 21st century. Most countries that developed rapidly over the past century did so because they had capital and were able to create skilled manpower to work productively in factories. Many such skilled workers benefited from the greater know-how they picked in their jobs and created new processes and machines that helped them produce more goods cheaper than was possible before. This alone is the reason why countries that industrialized in at the end of the 19th century remain the richest today.


Our Time Is Different

While what worked in the past was successfully copied by East Asian countries like Japan, South Korea and later by China to create wealth and lift millions out of poverty, the economic strategy of mass producing goods cheaply has likely run its course. Such a strategy may indeed work for the next few decades yet its success will be more limited than it has been in countries like Japan and Korea which industrialized later than western powers. A simple reason for this is that the world of the early 21st century is radically different from any period before, including how the world was at the end of the 20th century.

Disruptive technologies today are changing our world so drastically that experts like Yuval Noah Harari predict that we have no idea what kinds of jobs will exist 30 years in the future. This means that unlike countries like Japan, Korea, and China which mass-produced goods in cheaply in huge factories and moved millions out of poverty, India has little chance of doing so in the long term. This is because disruptive technologies like automation and AI may soon make any cost advantages that low-income countries have of little value.

Service Jobs Will Still be Needed

However, despite the likely impact of disruptive technologies, millions of Indian workers must still be trained to work in factories and to work in service jobs. This is simply because a well-trained workforce that has employable skills will still be needed to perform jobs that cannot be automated for at least the next few decades. Developed countries will certainly adopt disruptive technologies as soon as possible because the cost of labour is high in such countries. Developing nation like India still has a few more decades of time to skill their workforce so that its workers have skills that allow them to earn a livelihood. What makes skilling all the more important today is that workers who are skilled today can earn a livelihood that allows them to better educate their children in the future. The children of such skilled workers may be able to more easily work and use disruptive technologies to earn a livelihood, something that is less possible among large a large segment of Indians today.

Many Indian workers will also benefit today by working in service jobs that require a human touch and for which demand is growing. Demand for photographers, fashion designers, culinary artists, home appliance repairmen, career councillors, and domestic solar product installers are growing. What makes such jobs particularly good for young workers is that they usually pay far better than industrial jobs and have good future prospects as some of those employed in such jobs gradually grow to be in a position to hire or train more people.

A Need to Think Out of the Box

Replicating what happened in China over the past 40 years is nearly futile, yet skilling workers for new jobs that are needed and which serve a need in the economy are easily possible. Such jobs need not require only knowledge of machinery but also of human skills and soft skills and knowledge and familiarity with some new technologies.