The Case For TVET As A Lever For Change

The female labour force participation in India has been on a decline, presenting itself as a conundrum that needs further research and investigation.

The social benefits of educating a woman are well recognized, with research establishing these benefits to disproportionately accrue to the family of the working woman and larger society. Paradoxically, in India, the female labour force participation has also been on a decline, presenting itself as a conundrum that needs further research and investigation. In this context, we attempt to understand how women have been responding to their journey in the TVET system, which offers them a viable pathway into the labour force.

By providing access to quality training in industry-relevant courses, our ecosystem of technical and vocational education is promoting the uptake of skilling among women. Spanning various sectors and job types, with coursework ranging from two months to two years, efforts are being driven by the government machinery, private sector, and civil society organizations.

The Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), a key flagship skill development scheme has facilitated training to over 15.75 lakh women since 2016. The PMKVY data shows women have leveraged this program more than men, with women comprising 52 per cent of all candidates certified and placed. Statistics also point to the fact that women are more likely to complete their courses once enrolled, more likely to accept placements and more likely to stick around in these jobs. Over 79 per cent of women who enrol in the PMKVY’s short-term training courses get certified, compared to 73 per cent of men. Similarly, the Centre for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (of The/Nudge Foundation) shares that only 14 per cent of women drop out of the fully residential Gurukuls, notably lower than men.

As encouraging as these numbers are, getting women to enrol in Skill Development courses is not an easy task. Parental consent, family restrictions, fear of sending young women to bigger cities, as well as of perceived loss of control over the environment they will be exposed to act as primary deterrents to enrolment. 

After crossing these initial barriers to admission, they are more likely to complete the course and get placed. A good example would be Kasturi (24) from Raichur in rural Karnataka. She comes from a family of six, and dependent mainly on farm income. In early 2019, she went through the 3-month residential Skill Development course in Customer Service at the Gurukul by CSDE in Bengaluru. Today she works at a leading financial firm as a Sales Officer and earns around Rs 17,500 per month, contributing over 80 per cent of the family income.

At a national level, 54 per cent women trainees under PMKVY take up placements after their courses compared to 53 per cent men. At the Gurukuls the trend is similar, with 72 per cent women opting for placements as against 71 per cent men. Attrition rate for women is also much lower than men’s, with only 33 per cent men staying in their jobs for a period of more than 6 months, as compared to 49 per cent women. 

Analysis of PMKVY and CSDE data also point to women being more entrepreneurial and inclined to start their own businesses after training. At CSDE Gurukuls, 31 per cent of women doing Beauty & Wellness courses opt-out of placements to start their own businesses. Nalina (29), who graduated from the Beautician course at the Gurukul in 2017, opened her own salon in Bangalore and earns over Rs 25,000 per month. And lest we think women only take up “traditional” vocational courses like Beauty & Wellness and Apparel making, they are also increasingly going in for more technical courses like Electronics & Hardware and Logistics. Women trainees account for 61 per cent of trainings in Electronics and Hardware, and 59% of that in Logistics as per PMKVY data. 

These are encouraging statistics for the Government and funders of skill development programs. By not dropping out after enrolment, opting for placements and thereafter sticking to their jobs, women are ensuring that the money spent on training them is well invested. Women are committed, dedicated and more likely to persist, once they are enabled in overcoming the systemic, social barriers to entry.

Given this, perhaps the solution to a declining female labour force participation lies in a more concerted effort in understanding the changing barriers through the journey of a woman’s work life. Innovations targeted at nurturing their entrepreneurial spirit are also welcome. While a multitude of initiatives are underway, a multi-stakeholder movement that addresses the varied nuances of low female labour force participation would hold the key to success and impact.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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