Joint skills centre in Delhi 'a success'

A vocational skills centre in New Delhi, a Singapore-India collaboration, has been a success. All graduating trainees have found jobs, many earning wages above the average.

This was disclosed in a statement after Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi yesterday.

The statement from the Prime Minister's Office said both leaders discussed challenges in skills development, and the progress of Singapore's collaboration with India in vocational skills training - including the two institutes established in New Delhi and Udaipur, Rajasthan, and the prospect of a North East Skills Centre in Guwahati, Assam.

Mr Tharman and Mr Modi expressed hope that the centres could be examples of how skills training in India could be linked closely to jobs.

At a forum earlier yesterday, Mr Tharman warned that without improving the quality of education and skills training, India's "demographic dividend that comes from a youthful population will become a major social and political deficit".

Mr Tharman, who is in India on a three-day visit ending today, had noted that creating jobs is a challenge for the South Asian country at the Delhi Economics Conclave held by the Indian Finance Ministry.

"You have an education system that does not prepare people for the needs of modern economy, and employment legislation which is, in effect, anti-employment. And it's now a race against technology, which we all face," he said.

"The window of opportunity for labour-intensive activities is narrowing. I would say if India doesn't make urgent and major changes in the next 10 years, there is a real problem on our hands," he added.

However, Mr Tharman also noted that India was moving forward in spite of the challenges.

He said: "I am optimistic about India because of the new pace of change, and most fundamentally, the new culture being created - a culture where there is growing political support for good economics, and good economics is rewarded with political support."

In his speech, Mr Tharman also praised the Indian government for the goods and services tax (GST), which took effect on July 1.

The introduction of the GST, which was stalled for nearly a decade due to a lack of political consensus, has simplified India's labyrinthine system of state and federal taxes.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 23, 2017, with the headline Joint skills centre in Delhi 'a success'. Subscribe