Addressing the skills deficit to transform India’s growth

India stands 120th out of 131 countries surveyed in terms of female workforce participation according to a 2013 International Labour Organization report. Moreover, India has seen a decline in female workforce participation in the past decade, from 37 per cent in 2004 to 27 per cent in 2014. The UN estimates that if India’s female workforce participation reached parity with that of the United States, India’s GDP would increase by 4.2 per cent.

The IKEA Foundation, Xyntéo, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and India Development Foundation (IDF) have pioneered an innovative public-private collaboration to help address these stark figures because they believe that business, society and families stand to gain by improving women’s economic outcomes.

The basis for the collaboration is a work programme with three overarching objectives:

• To create a positive impact on the lives and livelihoods of women through training, employment and entrepreneurial skills development;

• To test and establish an innovative new model of public-private partnership that responds to the aspirations and needs of women, the identified needs of the private sector and has scalable and transformational impact; and

• To establish a continuum that connects education to skills, jobs and growth.


“Quality of growth matters just as much as quality of life ‒ this project gives business leaders the opportunity to make a concrete difference in India through enabling young people to gain the skills required to contribute to a new kind of growth for their country.”

Ashish Bhatt, managing director, Xyntéo

In its initial phase, the programme is focusing on Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telengana and the National Capital Region to address the demand and supply side of women’s employment by securing commitments from businesses in identifying employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for women; mobilising women to participate in skills and training courses; and supporting the development of training curricula relevant to the aspirations of women and business needs.

The project partners completed their scoping phase in August 2015 – securing commitments from businesses, training institutes and state governments – and are now in the process of launching ‘proof-of-concept’ pilot projects across the four target states.

For more background on the project, read our scoping phase report on the trends emerging from India’s private sector.