New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday said more jobs need to be created in non-farm sector as employment creation is the most potent tool for bringing down poverty.
Addressing a summit on livelihood security, he also asked the industry to create a mechanism for income opportunities and capacity building through corporate social responsibility (CSR).
While emphasising on the need for providing livelihood security to the poor and realising the dreams of young India, he said that achieving these two tasks pose a formidable challenge considering India has only 2.4 per cent of world's geographical area and 17 per cent of the global population.
"In India, the high incidence of poverty of over 60 per cent that prevailed six decades ago have come down to over 30 per cent now. ...Even then a sizeable number of about 270 million remained below the poverty line as on 2011-12. Our goal now is 'poverty elimination' and not merely 'poverty alleviation'," Mukherjee said at an Assocham event.
Since the average age of an Indian will be 29 years by 2020, the country not only has to find gainful employment to engage the growing manpower but also to equip them with capacity and expertise, he said.
Stating that job creation is the most potent tool for wiping out the curse of poverty, the President said there is a "freeze in fresh farm jobs" owing to over-employment and therefore more jobs needed to be created in non-farm sector.
"To lift the pressure off the farm sector, more jobs in non-farm sector are required to be created through a paradigm shift from primary to secondary agriculture," he added.
Highlighting that food processing sector provides a window for generating jobs in rural areas and small townships, Mukherjee said: "Developing this sunrise sector calls for greater investment in infrastructure like cold chains, handling, packaging and transportation."
Even as he called for creating more jobs in non-farm sector, he said efforts should be made to make agriculture a viable and rewarding profession by improving farm yields through intervention of modern technologies.
Stating that India would be in a position to become the world's largest supplier of workforce in another decade, the President said that steps should be taken on skill development and capacity building to take demographic advantage.
"By 2020, the average age of an Indian will be 29 years, eight years younger than an American or Chinese. Not only do we have to find gainful employment to engage our growing manpower, we also have to equip them with capacity and expertise to make this impending demographic dividend count. A skilled working population at par with the best in the world can reap dividends like none other," he said.
The President further said that livelihood security cannot be complete without the provision of social security and suggested that schemes like 'Swavalamban' that deals with unorganised sector pension should fully cover the unorganised sector workforce.
In India, over 85 per cent of the working population or an estimated 400 million people work in unorganised sector.
Asserting that a multi-modal approach was necessary for generating jobs, Mukherjee said that manufacturing has to be invigorated as the potential of this sector as mass employment generator is immense.
He hoped that the investor-friendly initiative of 'Make in India' would lead the country's economy to be a manufacturing hub of low cost but high quality products.
"Skill development on a massive scale, say 500 million persons by 2020 as envisaged by the National Policy on Skill Development is required," he said, adding that generating interest among youth to acquire new skills call for monetary incentives.
While noting that employment generation in urban sector posed a tough challenge, he suggested promotion of financial cooperatives to enable the urban poor access resources.
Highlighting the government's new programmes such as 'Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana', 'Financial Inclusion' and 'Digital India', the President expressed confidence that these determined efforts would lead to socio-economic benefits including greater livelihood opportunities.
Since the challenges are many and time is limited for addressing livelihood security of India, the industry should "create mechanisms for income opportunities and capacity building under CSR initiatives mandated by the Companies Act of 2013," Mukherjee added.