Tailoring programs to meet labour market demands

Vocational training programs have helped Indian women break into the labour market. © Photawa

Dreamstime.com|Vocational training programs have helped Indian women break into the labour market. © Photawa | Dreamstime.com

Vocational training programs have been shown to be a cost-effective way of giving women from low socio-economic communities in India the skills they need to break into the labour market.

India, like many countries faces high unemployment on one hand, and increased demand for specialised labour in manufacturing and service sections on the other.

Researchers from Monash University and Fordham University in the US worked with two non-government organisations (NGOs) in India, Prathan Delhi Education Initiative and Social Awakening Through Youth Action (SATYA), to assess the role vocational training programs could have in the labour market.

Pratham is one of the largest NGOs in India, reaching out to more than three million underprivileged children with its initiatives. SATYA is a small NGO which specialises in providing skill development programs to residents in poor communities.

The researchers used a vocational education program in stitching and tailoring to measure the labour market outcomes and effects on empowerment, entrepreneurship and life satisfaction for women participating in the program.

Monash University researcher Professor Pushkar Maitra from the Department of Economics said the program had generated substantial improvement in labour market outcomes.

“Six months after the completion of the training program, the women who were offered the training were more likely to be employed, more likely to have looked for a job, worked more hours and earned almost twice as much in the post-training period compared to women who were not offered the training,” Professor Maitra said.

“The high levels of economic growth accompanied with rising inequality and skill shortage experienced by India made it an important setting to evaluate the effectiveness of labour market training programs.”

The program was offered to women aged between 18 and 39 years, with at least five or more grades of schooling. It was a rigorous, six-month course in stitching and tailoring services with the aim of making the women adept in making clothes for both children and adults.

The researchers found that the women doubled the hours they worked and increased their monthly income by more than 150 per cent. They were almost five per cent more likely to be employed, six per cent more likely to be actively looking for a job, and on average worked two more hours per week than women not offered the training program. There was also a large increase in the ownership of sewing machines.

“The short-term effect of the program is extremely encouraging,” Professor Maitra said.

“A simple cost-benefit analysis suggests that the program is highly cost effective and there are considerable gains from both continuing the program in the current location and replicating it in other parts of India.”