Agriculture’s share in India’s GDP has been on a steady decline but it continues to play a critical role in country’s socio-economic fabric. Also, while it is one of the largest employers, contributing to nearly half of total employment in the country, it remains a sub-optimal employer with highest dependency ratio.
The reality of agriculture in India is that average age of farmer is going up and over the years, the interest of youth in this sector has been waning. They do not see this sector as a sector of employment by choice owing to inadequate returns. Several reasons have led to lower remuneration in this sector, including rising input costs, prices received being non-commensurate with the market rates, etc. The prices which a farmer gets for his crop vary from season to season and year to year, resulting in inconsistent income generation. In comparison, wages across various other sectors have gone up. Even the landless labour is not necessarily worse-off, partly due to earnings from MGNREGA, which have gone up over the years. MGNREGA has in-fact reduced migration of labour, as now people have got an earning avenue at their home place itself. This has further aggravated the scarcity of agricultural labour in certain parts of the country and increased the cost of getting labour from outside.
Today’s youth is highly aspirational and desires better quality of life but has limited means to achieve it
It is indeed an irony that the agriculture sector in India has the highest dependency of population and still continues to face labour shortages. While the latter concern can be mitigated through mechanisation, the bigger concern, however, is to provide alternative employment avenues to the rural youth. Today’s youth is highly aspirational and desires better quality of life but has limited means to achieve it. Keeping this in mind, the question arises as to what can be done to enable these youth to meet their aspirations. One way is to create opportunities in the agriculture supply chain, which extends right from agricultural production to the food retail. Since food is a mass category, the employment potential linked to it is also vast. This however requires urgent skill development.
This article is a part of FICCI publication “Economy of Jobs” that was released during our 89th AGM in December 2016. It presents essays from India’s leading business leaders and eminent thought leaders who share views and suggestions on job creation. The articles cover varied issues: demographics, education, skill development, entrepreneurship, impact of technology, labour laws, and as well as specific issues across sectors.
More articles from this series can be viewed here at: Economy of Jobs
The government has taken sincere efforts in promoting skills in the food sector, but practicality is missing. There has been a mismatch between industry expectations and the skill sets being imparted. The main issue is that the Skill India initiative is being seen more of a ‘push’ rather than a ‘pull’ by the industry. The key challenge is thus to create demand, which will encourage greater enrollments as well as create greater opportunities for effective utilisation of these skilled personnel.
Agriculture marketing and extension services are still very poor in many parts of the country. Public provision of extension services has not been up to the mark but private sector is increasingly playing an important role in providing various extension services. This is one area where we can engage the rural youth actively by appropriately skilling them.
To skill people across the agricultural supply chain, Cargill has in-fact taken a unique initiative. Cargill has set up a plant in Karnataka and as a part of our CSR, we have enrolled 5000 farmers for improving their current agricultural practices. Cargill does not have any commercial relationship with them and the simple motive is to bring prosperity to that area. The reason behind the success of this initiative is that the farmers have realized that Cargill does not have any underlying interest in this activity. Building trust is the way ahead in terms of all these initiatives.
To take this a step forward, Cargill selects a group of youth from these communities and enrolls them in agriculture universities, where they are sent for training for a duration ranging from three to six months, post which they are brought back to their villages. We impart training to rural youth or help them enroll in universities in various areas. This helps in creating quality jobs and providing a positive impact on their productivity and efficiency. We expect this initiative to become self-sustaining in the long term, as these individuals have become ambassadors of this initiative in their communities and villages.
Siraj A Chaudhry Chairman, Cargill India writes this piece for FICCI publication “Economy of Jobs”. Post continues on Page 2.