The economic crisis spurred by the pandemic is said to be worse than the great recession that rocked the world a decade ago. According to a Microsoft report, global unemployment in 2020 may reach a quarter of a billion people. The figures back home are no more encouraging. The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown measures led to an unprecedented rise in India’s unemployment rates, particularly for youth. According to data from the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) about 41% of people aged 15-29 were out of work in May; 27 million people aged 20-30 had lost their jobs in April. Even before the pandemic started, India’s youth unemployment rates were record high.
The job market is undergoing a major transformation in the Covid era and so is the availability of jobs for the youth. Thousands of youth are looking for a job in a market that may no longer have a space for them. The pandemic has highlighted the widening skills gap around the world which needs to be closed with even greater urgency to accelerate economic recovery. This calls for redoubled investment in skilling, ensuring that training reaches a wide population of youth with the greatest needs, making them gainfully employed.
Smile Foundation’s STeP programme is aligned to this objective and is working towards building a skilled workforce from less privileged youth that is prepared to face the new world thrown open by the pandemic. The programme had earlier been focused on training and employing youth from urban slums in the retail, service and hospitality sectors, but with these industries taking a big hit during the pandemic, new modules have been introduced in emerging areas such as medical attendant support services, e-logistics, BFSI, digital marketing, etc.
Vazida and her three sisters come from a poor family. Their father is a rickshaw puller and mother makes beads at home for a living. When the pandemic struck both lost their livelihood, but the sisters who always wanted to make a difference enrolled in the STeP programme to train as General Duty Assistants. At a time when people were scared to go out of their homes these sisters stood out as shining examples of bravery. Now, Vazida works as a Nursing Assistant at a hospital in Bengaluru taking care of patients. Her sisters are following in her footsteps and undergoing training to become GDAs.
More than 10,000 young women and men like Vazida are enrolled and undergoing training for employability at 40 STeP centres across India.