World Youth Skill Day: How Skilling Programs Fill Rural Unemployment Gap

Skills development is critical in addressing the difficulties of rural poverty. To ensure a prosperous and equitable India, it is crucial to invest in skilling initiatives tailored to the needs of rural communities, paving the way for a brighter future.

Aliva Das
Jul 15, 2023 13:13 IST
Unemployment rate higher among urban educated women

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More than half of India’s population is under 30 years of age. India is currently experiencing the “youth bulge” phenomenon.

The demographic bulge poses us with the biggest question now than ever before will India be able to seize or squander its demographic dividend? A large, youth population could accelerate India’s economic growth, only if it can harness its skills.

In 2022, the estimated youth unemployment rate in India was 23.22 per cent. For the past decade, India’s youth unemployment rate has been hovering around the 22 per cent mark which is significantly higher than the adult unemployment rate.

Skills development and training are critical in addressing the difficulties of rural poverty. By promoting employability and enhancing income-earning opportunities, skills training can lift women and men out of poverty and promote sustainable rural livelihood. 

The rural youth population stand at approximately per cent of India’s total population out of which 48% is female. Rural India thus will have the potential to stimulate rapid economic growth by leveraging the available human capital base. A large mass of educated, frustrated, unemployed youth pose a potential threat to social and political stability. Therefore, improvements in skilling, employment and education for the rural youth will play a tremendous role in driving Sustainable Development Goals, particularly around the fulfilment of SDG 5 (Gender Equality), SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), and SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure). 

Why do skilling programs matter?

However, rural areas in India continue to face severe decent work deficits. This is further exacerbated by the lack of access to social protection, low incomes, and a high degree of informality which is characterised by the lack of labour law coverage largely due to the seasonal and temporary nature of occupations, etc. Additional barriers include weak labour market institutions, inadequate infrastructure, fewer educational opportunities and underinvestment. Formal wage employment is scarce and self-employment and informal work dominate.

Global megatrends such as the rising role of technology, climate change, demographic shifts, urbanisation, and the globalisation of value chains are changing the nature of work and skills demands. The future of work is also changing rapidly and industries today demand a skilled workforce over an educated one. Hence avenues to skill, re-skill, and upskill will become more important going forward to harness the demographic dividend.


It is of utmost importance to not just create employment opportunities but also train them as per the industry needs so that the young people can have access to dignified employment else the demographic bulge will become a demographic bomb.

Competing in today’s global economy is complex. India, today, not only needs advanced technical and vocational skills but also a flexible workforce that can adjust to rapid shifts in demand. That is why investing in skills is so vital for our country’s economic growth and competitiveness. In particular, education systems must be oriented towards producing youth who have both strong foundational skills as well as specific skills for jobs.

Also, if we look particularly at the rural economy, agriculture continues to dominate. However, one cannot ignore the fact that rural livelihoods are day by day becoming increasingly diversified to non-farm sectors. Even in agriculture, only a few are engaged in high-value agriculture while many are still engaged in low-productivity subsistence farming. Hence skilling can not only further advance rural non-farm economy but also increase the ability to innovate and adopt new farm technologies for better farm output and agricultural businesses (for example, agri-business value chain activities)

Some of the reforms one can look at are ensuring expanded access to quality education and vocational training by promoting a gender-responsive learning environment (for instance having transportation, childcare options, etc), encouraging the training of men and women in non-traditional roles (men in textiles, women in electronics), flexible training modules (particularly for women and migrants who cannot afford fulltime trainings due to their other roles, seasonal migration, etc) and most importantly mandate career counselling and labour market information right from school so that the young rural can take a more informed career choice.

Similarly, one can think of a more diversified skilling ecosystem where one can combine technical skills with entrepreneurial skills. For instance, entrepreneurship training can be complemented by facilitating rural entrepreneurs’ access to micro-credit schemes, business development services and market information. Also lastly encourage and promote apprenticeship for young entrants in the labour market to learn a trade.

If done correctly, skill development can reduce unemployment and underemployment, increase productivity and increase quality of life. Helping people develop and upskill/ re-skill themselves makes more economic sense.

In conclusion, skilling holds immense importance for rural India in generating employment opportunities and fostering sustainable development. By addressing the skill gap, skilling initiatives can empower individuals, reduce unemployment, and create a favourable environment for entrepreneurship and innovation.

To ensure a prosperous and equitable India, it is crucial to invest in skilling initiatives tailored to the unique needs of rural communities, unlocking their potential and paving the way for a brighter future.


The article is authored by Aliva Das, Senior Manager (Youth Initiative) at Transform Rural India.Views expressed are their own

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#Rural employment #World Youth Skill Day 2023