India has no dearth of talent. The country also has a large number of youth who are in the working age group. The areas in which we are primarily lacking are opportunity and education. While a small percentage of the younger population has access to good quality education at all levels, through which they acquire employability skills too, a significant number still remain at a disadvantage. Their socio-economic conditions contribute towards this to a large extent. And this, coupled with a lack of awareness and limited access to resources and opportunities, renders many youth unemployed. Even today, simply dreaming about getting a job based on one’s skills is a far cry for most.
Thus emerges the need for sustainable livelihoods, which can only be met with sustainable skill training.
A livelihood is considered ‘sustainable’ when it can provide a stable, dignified way of life even during times of crisis and change without jeopardizing the natural resource base. It can sustain a range of dynamic stress factors and shocks. Having a livelihood which is sustainable means that a skilled worker’s capabilities are not limited by external factors. A person can have a sustainable livelihood only if they acquire skills that remain relevant in the long-term to ensure a stable source of income.
One thing is certain: the human population in the next decade will be significantly larger than it is now. Despite the fact that global population growth is slowing, the world’s population could reach 9-10 billion people. And because this is going to put a strain on our existing natural resources, new sustainable modes of livelihood become more vital than ever.
While the challenges of our new reality are daunting, we have seen hints of success in recent years that can continue into the post-pandemic future. It is thus important to talk about some of the favourable trends which are emerging for establishing sustainable lifestyles.
Most notable among these are the efforts being made by civil society organizations and social entrepreneurs. In India, these two entities are exploring innovative ways to empower people to solve their problems. They are driving the developments for sustainable livelihoods. By building sustainable livelihoods, they are making room for more people to lead in their own communities.
Social entrepreneurs and civil society organizations are crucial change agents in producing solutions. Often, they complement and converge with efforts from the government and other agencies. They work with people and have a more people-centric and holistic approach.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact, the future demands for appropriate and timely action. Else, millions of additional people are at risk of slipping below the poverty line. In light of this, various foundations have issued requests for collaboration on solutions with social entrepreneurs. Some have pledged to ease out or abolish restrictions on current grants, contribute to disaster response money, and assist grantees in bringing about employee-related policy reforms. This opens up new opportunities for social entrepreneurs to innovate.
These long-term tendencies are a sign of hope for a society where despite a large number of youth being academically qualified, unemployment still remains a crucial development issue.
Santanu Mishra is the Co-founder and Executive Trustee of Smile Foundation, India. Founded in 2002, Smile Foundation benefits over 1,800,000 children and their families every year through 400 live welfare projects on education, healthcare, livelihood, and women’s empowerment in over 2,000 remote villages and urban slums across 25 states of India. To learn more, please visit www.smilefoundationindia.org.