Can e-Shram portal data bridge India’s skill gap?

skill gap, e-shram
With a database of millions of skilled and semi-skilled workers, e-Shram portal holds the key to bridging the skill gap, but concerns linger over data sharing and worker benefits.

Skill gap in India: Industry bodies, grappling with a shortage of skilled workers, are urging the government to grant them access to the e-Shram portal’s data. They believe this will help them source suitable candidates from a diverse skilled talent pool. The e-Shram portal, a repository of data for nearly 300 million unorganised sector workers, could address the manpower crisis stemming from unskilled and semi-skilled workers. The industry also contends that this database will facilitate the skilling and employability of the unorganised workforce in the country.

Opinion is sharply divided on the proposal. An overwhelming number of analysts believe that access to the worker database will enhance compliance and accountability, and are optimistic that opening up e-Shram data can ensure legal employment of workers, aiding industries in adhering to labour laws and regulations. There are others who argue that there are currently no direct welfare benefits tied to e-Shram registration, questioning the real advantages for workers. They suggest that the vast database should be utilised to provide targeted welfare measures to registered workers.

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India’s skill gap

The advent of technologies like big data and AI, while beneficial to the industry, has led to a growing skill gap in India’s workforce. This gap is characterised by the availability of more jobs than there are qualified people to fill them. India’s recent digital transformation has exacerbated this skills gap in various industries. Keeping pace with technological advancements is challenging for many, as they struggle to adapt to rapid changes. This technological rise coincides with a pivotal period for India, where numerous talented individuals find their skills misaligned with the demands of fast-evolving industries.

Despite its booming economy and young, vibrant workforce, India risks missing out on the benefits of its demographic dividend without properly equipping this large workforce with relevant skills. A LinkedIn survey revealed that close to 78% of industry leaders believe that youth are still focused on traditional degrees and lack practical knowledge. Teamlease data shows that nearly 40% of IT professionals in India need to upskill in the next few years, and half of Indian employers report difficulties in filling job vacancies due to talent shortages.

Accenture, a global consulting leader, estimates that AI could add $957 billion to India’s GDP by 2035. However, there were 4,000 unfilled AI positions in India in 2022.

Role of the e-Shram portal

The industry sees the e-Shram portal as a solution to many problems. Launched in August 2021 by the labour ministry following a Supreme Court directive, the portal creates a pan-national database of an estimated 380 million unorganised workers, including both skilled and unskilled workers such as agricultural workers, domestic workers, construction workers, gig, and platform workers. As of January 9, over 292 million people are registered in more than 400 occupations, with agriculture leading at approximately 153 million.

Industry insiders believe the platform can enhance communication, allowing industries to better relay information to workers and vice versa. They argue that using the e-Shram portal could facilitate workers’ access to social security benefits, like provident fund and health insurance, as well as retirement plans. They are confident that e-Shram can empower informal workers by recognising and valuing their skills and contributions.

Currently, e-Shram portal data is being integrated with other government databases, like the National Career Services (NCS) portal, UDYAM portal for small businesses, and ASEEM portal for skilled workers. Access to the data is limited to companies that have partnered with the government in developing these portals.

Addressing the skill gap

By 2025, two in every three Indians will be of working age. To prepare this workforce, industry leaders advocate for vocational courses at school or college levels to build essential skills. However, updating curriculums is a complex process.

The World Economic Forum reports that India will face a significant skill churn in the coming years, with artificial intelligence, big data, data analytics, and cybersecurity becoming core future skills. It emphasises the importance of continuous learning and upskilling for students and professionals to remain relevant. Online learning platforms and on-the-job training methods are crucial in this endeavour. Industry and academia must collaborate to update curriculums, addressing skill gaps at an early stage.

With globalisation, policymakers and academia should recognise the potential of Indian youth, catering to both India’s and the world’s need for a skilled workforce. Many countries with aging populations also require a skilled young workforce. With strategic investments and policies, India can create a workforce that is job-ready and equipped to tackle future challenges.