Thiruvananthapuram: Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac has turned what is widely said to be an inconsequential Budget Speech, given that elections just a couple of months away and a revised budget is inevitable, into a document that introduces a radical plan to boost employment generation. The objective is to create 20 lakh jobs in five years, especially for women.
Called the Action Plan for Employment Generation (APEG), it seeks to take advantage of two factors: one, pandemic-induced behavioural change and two, the brand image Kerala has acquired globally for the way it went about tackling the virus.
The employment action plan is two pronged. On one side, it plans to facilitate in a big way the popular 'work from home' trend, making the hiring of Kerala WFH candidates highly attractive for even foreign firms.
And on the other is the creation of an ecosystem for the development of highly skilled personnel, and this will include the setting up of 30 centres of excellence and universal laptop possession and internet access.
According to Isaac, in the next five years 18 crore people would be working outside a centralised office space. "Our plan is to tap at least one percent of this," Isaac said.
For this, Work Near Homes (WNH) projects have already begun. He said during the pandemic, resorts and other buildings were converted into workstations so that employees could work and yet observe social distancing.
Isaac announced a scheme to create at least 5000 sq ft at the block and municipality levels, which he said could be transformed into workstations.
In addition to the WNH arrangements, Isaac said a system would be created for companies to recruit employees in a work from home arrangement.
The details of candidates will be made available to the hiring companies on a digital platform. Registration will begin from February.
Candidates hired this way will be provided the following benefits. One, loan will be made available to them through Kerala Finance Corporation and Kerala Bank for the purchase of work equipment like computer and other technical aids. Two, workstation at subsided rent. Three, goverment will meet the provident fund share to be paid by the employer. Four, if PF is not required, the government will pay the insurance premium of the termination benefits.
Isaac said there were five lakh women in Kerala who were sitting at home after taking a professional break. He said, along with them, another 40 lakh women would be willing to work from homes or in a workstation near their homes.
This way Isaac expects to generate at least 20 lakh jobs in the next five years. The finance minister said even global giants would be interested in hiring from Kerala after its enhanced stature in the world stage following its COVID-19 response.
He said the government would regularly interact with global firms to understand their requirements and, on the basis of this, provide skills training to job aspirants.
It is not the usual data entry skills that will be imparted. Instead it will include industry 4.0 skils, digital skills, life skills, language skills, functional skills, domain skills and fintech skills. Isaac said the plan is to re-skill at least 50 lakh people.
Kerala - Development Innovation Strategy Council (K-DISC) will be reorganised as a registered society and tasked with the responsibility.
However, Isaac has positioned APEG as a long term strategy. He said employment generation would be better served by transforming Kerala into a knowledge economy. And for this Isaac said 30 centres of excellence will be created.