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Tapping the Diversity of India's Talent Market

Source : Forbes
Aug 22, 2012

One of the most fascinating aspects of the emerging market countries is the emerging part. The BRICs, the ASEAN Tigers, the European Eastern block and Sub-Saharan Africa are all bubbling with possibilities and emerging in different ways and at different rates. Most have large pools of untapped human resources – great percentages of their populations that have hitherto been under-educated, under-employed and therefore under-contributing.

 

India is a case in point. Almost four times the population of the U.S. (1.2 billion v 313 million) yet only one quarter of the GDP ($15 trillion v $4 trillion). Per capita GDP in the U.S. is $48,100 – in India it is $3,700 (which, incidentally also makes India the lowest performing of the BRIC nations: China $8,400, Brazil $11,600 and Russia $16,700). At this relative rate of under performance, there can only be one way – up.

 

How does India change its fortunes and take its appropriate place on the world stage? It has to be people power. If India could match the per capita production output even of the Russians, it would be a 20 trillion dollar economy and easily the biggest in the world. Of course, much easier said than done, but it does serve to quantify the hypothetical potential. How does India unleash it?

 

There is much focus on India’s youth. With a median population age of 26.2 years, India has one of the youngest demographic profiles in the world (U.S. 36.9, Russia 38.7 and Japan 44.8). The biggest challenge for India with its young workforce is grappling with the scale issues of getting it educated and employable. Despite its 1.6 million schools, 500 universities, 25,000 colleges and 7,000 technical institutes, far too few employable Indians are graduating from its education system. A lot of youth talent is being wasted.

 

Another segment currently underutilized in India is its women. Contrary to global trends, the female labor participation ratio in India has been falling since 2005 when it stood at 37%. Even then it was low by relative standards, but by 2010 it was down to 29%. Most women working in India are employed in junior roles and there is significant ‘pipeline leakage’ from junior to middle management ranks. Women hold less than one in eight management roles in Indian companies and this falls to one in twenty at executive levels. Multinational corporations operating in India have a better gender diversity record, with one in five women in management and one in ten in executive roles, but the balance is still very skewed.

 

Both economic and cultural causes are attributed to this scenario. Despite India’s buoyant economic growth in the past decade, the rate of job creation and therefore employment opportunities has not been commensurate. Unemployment is relatively high at around 10%. Culturally, India is still a staunch traditional society and the role of women is strongly tied to family responsibilities as a clear priority. Consequently, even though many young Indian women seek employment, their exit rates are high once they marry and have children or care for elderly parents or other relatives.

 

Like the rest of the emerging world, India is in a state of transition and there is much change already to be absorbed and more to come. Indian government policy and social dynamics will be key to determining the pace and extent of growth of India. Without doubt, the untapped talent in India’s youth and women has the potential to change the face of tomorrow’s India.


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