If the big goal for skill development—skilling up several hundred young people within a few years, which is the goal of the new skills ministry—is achieved before jobs are available for these skilled persons, it will make the social and political problem of joblessness worse, though the skills ministry will have met its goal. Rallying more investments before ease of doing business improves will create more disappointed investors with more stories of the difficulty of doing business in India, which will make it even more difficult to attract more investors. The introduction of new technologies will require new skills which will be learned mostly on the job where the new technologies are being applied. Flexibility in hiring and firing will reduce employers’ incentives to train their workers. And, more flexibility for employers before social security systems are improved will create social and political pressures against the reform of labour laws. When the system is not considered as an integrated one, there will be many fixes that will backfire and prevent the generation of more jobs faster.
5C problems require ‘5S’ solutions—Systems, Scenarios, Steering Synergistic Solutions
Jobless growth, in spite of high GDP, now complicated by advances in labour-displacing automation, is a 5C problem. 5C problems require ‘5S’ solutions—Systems, Scenarios, Steering Synergistic Solutions. They require an understanding of the System. Then solutions can be envisaged by preparing Scenarios of the system. Then, with stakeholders engaged, leaders can Steer Synergistic Solutions. 5S solutions proceed through three broad stages. First, understand the System. Then, project plausible Scenarios of the future states of the system. Thereafter, Steer Synergistic Solutions.
“Generative Scenario Planning” is a 5S methodology which is much better suited for solving India’s 5C job growth problem than are conventional approaches to policy formulation and implementation. In the first step of generative scenario planning, diverse experts and stakeholders are brought together to brainstorm what are the forces complicating the situation. Each, like the blind men around the elephant, can see a part of the whole picture. Putting their perspectives together, they can see a bigger picture emerging, in which they will find questions to explore. This step is akin to the view a good GP would take of the condition of the body. A good GP generates a good hypothesis or two, and then recommends that a few tests be conducted to understand the condition better, before beginning any treatment.
Similarly, in the second step of the generative scenario process, a few, potentially high- impact factors that require to be much better understood are examined, by consulting relevant experts and gathering data. In the third step, the interactions among these forces are examined to develop a model of the system. The system model focuses on the interactions among the forces. By focusing on the interactions, it anticipates fixes that can backfire which conventional management approaches that pursue solutions in silos are often blind too. It also enables the solutions to the parts to be modulated, to reduce any unintended bad effects good solutions to one part could have on another. The system model also helps to locate the ‘high leverage’ points, or ‘pivotal’ points in the system. Concerted action at these points can cause the system to take a different course into the future.
With these insights—a broad system model, and its pivotal points — plausible scenarios can be projected of the future. If the forces play out in one way, with action at the pivotal points, then one scenario can emerge. If, on the other hand, other actions, or no actions are taken at the pivotal points, other scenarios can emerge. Scenarios are not predictions of the future. They are guides to what is likely to emerge if some actions are taken, and if forces play out as they may. Scenarios provide a steering mechanism, by providing directions for policies, and by analysing the early warning signals that should be watched out for. They are tools for Steering Synergistic Solutions.
Institute a Jobs Policy for India
The Indian Government’s Job#1 is to institute a Jobs Policy for India. The solution to India’s need to create more jobs faster is to urgently apply a more effective process to develop a good, synergistic policy-matrix. The effectiveness of the policy will depend on the quality of the process to produce it. Generative scenario planning, a 5S process for 5C problems, can provide a good framework. It can enable systematic participation of stakeholders along with the government to shape and implement a Jobs Policy.
Arun Maira, Chairman, HelpAge International and Former Member, Planning Commission writes this piece for FICCI publication “Economy of Jobs”.