Just months away from national elections, when the government brought up the National Career Services Project, it was applauded as a well-thought political move. It was also applauded as a good move because ours is a country with around 4.57 crore workers, with one out of every three graduates being unemployed. July 20th 2015 marked one of the milestones in the developments brought about by the Ministry of Labour & Employment (hereinafter “the MLE”), as our Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi launched the National Career Service (hereinafter “the NCS”).
The ambitious project, modelled on the line of a similar initiative by the UK government in 2012, is a five-year mission Mode Project, implemented by the Directorate General of Employment, MLE. The aim was to make this a one-stop solution for a wide array of employment and career-related services to the citizens of India.
The NCS project was designed to reach out to the people of this country through its three essential pillars, i.e., a welldesigned ICT-based portal: an NCS portal, country-wide set up of Model Career Centers, and interlinkage with all the states through employment exchanges. The digital centralized portal
was to provide a wide range of career-related services, including job search, job matching, rich career content, career counselling, information on job fairs, services of local service providers like drivers, plumbers, etc., for households and various other services.
As per the Annual Report 2020-21 released by the MLE, the NCS has signed a Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) with many strategic partners to enhance the quality and reach of the services throughout the country. The Ministry has also engaged with several institutions and organizations to bring more and more job opportunities to our workforce, with some of the leading institutions/organizations such as Common Service Centers, Department of Posts, and other leading private job portals operating in the metros. It has also initiated the integration of the NCS Portal with other ministries/departments like MSDE, MHRD, AICTE, etc.
As of today, the NCS portal shows an overwhelming number of Indian citizens (approx. 1,37,02,843 persons) who are active job seekers against 1,78,848 active employers that are looking to recruit for 1,38,104 vacancies. A quick graphical look at similar statistics from the past is as follows:
These numbers are an indicator of the long way left to go to narrow the distance between job seekers and employers with their vacancies. One must also keep in mind that this data only reflects the people who have registered online. It can only be guessed as to how many numbers are still out there, uncounted for. Moreover, the fact that all these numbers indicate one of the essential premises in the country, employment, is even more disheartening.
In one of the recent press releases made by the MLE, the government has disclosed that the total allocation made for the NCS Project during 2021-22 is INR 57 crore, and out of this, as of December 6th 2021, INR 12.58 crore has been utilized.
While the project is a very great thought to start with, the funds being directed towards it are, to say boldly, disproportionate to the INR 2,200 crore plan that the UPA government announced (in 2009) to overhaul India’s 1,128 employment exchanges.
Concerning some of the numbers achieved to date, the abovementioned press release declared that as of December 24th 2021, 90.47 lakh vacancies had been mobilized, 9214 counselling sessions conducted, 6464 job fairs organized, and 3.16 lakh job seekers got final offer letters through the NCS portal. Although these numbers seem fancy at their face, they do not seem to satisfy the ambition with which the project was started.
Two of the biggest hurdles that could be in the way of achieving satisfactory numbers are possibly the only-online presence and the lack of general public awareness of the project (the former leading to the latter). In a country like India where the internet penetration rate stood at around 50% in 2020, it is unwise to expect an employment-related project to meet its potential as long as it is entirely online. This online presence, combined with a lack of internet access, further promotes the lack of awareness of the project, leading to evident issues with its efficacy.
In December 2021, the central government disclosed that it had used around INR 1,700 crore for advertisements only between 2018-21. These were intended to create awareness of government policies and schemes among the interested parties, including those living in remote areas through various media, according to Anurag Thakur, the Information and Broadcasting Minister. Perhaps better ideas to create awareness about projects such as NCS among the intended beneficiaries are needed, given that there is no lack of funds for the objective.
To sum up, while the intentions behind implementing the NCS seem to be sound and wise, the project has not yet reached a stage that deserves a pat on the back. More work and thoughtful planning, considering the circumstances that the intended beneficiaries live in, are mostly what is required for the project to reach its potential to the fullest. Now with the Finance Minister once again announcing that the government is working to tackle unemployment issues while presenting the Union Budget 2022, we can only hope for the best.