Stressing job creation as India’s biggest challenge amid automation, visiting Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Saturday said India needs to establish better links between skills training and jobs, reduce incentives on capital investment and relook at its labour laws to ensure that the demographic dividend does not turn into demographic deficit. “India’s biggest challenge is jobs. It is a real challenge going forward because India has lost a lot of time, it has lost a lot of time because you have legislation, employment legislation which is anti-employment,” he said at the Delhi Economics Conclave 2017 organised by the finance ministry.
He said the window of opportunity for the labour intensive activities is going to narrow over the years and if India does not make major and urgent changes in the next 10 years then the country will have a real problem. The shortage of skilled manpower needs concerted action from policymakers or else “the demographic dividend will become demographic crisis in the years to come”, Shanmugaratnam said.
A balance has to be built while incentivising capital investment and investing in skill creation. “The link between skills and jobs is stricter. India has taken several steps in skill but the link with jobs has been weak,” he said.
Appreciating India’s efforts in building political support for good economy, he said it is impressive how the culture in India is changing and corruption is being tackled. “GST is impressive not just for economic or political persective… Building political support for good economy is the underlying lesson in India in recent year,” Shanmugaratnam added.
He further said India is making major strides in building infrastructure and it has still a long way to go, as India has underinvested in infrastructure over the years. Shanmugaratnam also defended Singapore’s visa regime, saying that one-third of its workforce is “already foreign” and it would be “mindless” to have open border without any policy framework to control the flow of people. With Singapore taking a conservative view of visa issuance to Indian tech workers, companies are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain the level of manpower.
Observing that out of 5.5 million population, 3.5 million are Singapore citizens, he said as “one-third of our workforce is already foreign, it would be mindless if you have open borders without any policy framework to constrain the flow of people into your job market. It is wrong politics, and wrong economics as well. Singapore, he said, has been the strongest proponents of liberalisation of goods and services but movement of people has to operate within some framework of constraint. “This is a reality. This is reality all over the globe,” he said.