For the past some years, whenever one talks of India, the phrase "demographic dividend" always crops up. A developing country with more than 600 million people under the age of 25 is bound to be the envy of its ageing neighbours, particularly as their workforce ages. To tap into this dividend, however, India needs to educate and employ its own citizens.

The government is trying to do its bit through the new skill development mission launched as Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana last year in June. The mission aims to provide employability to 2.4 million people by training and certifying them with skills that the enterprises demand in the current job market. With a separate budget of Rs 1,500 crore allocated to it, the scheme is also offering financial rewards to the youth who undergo training before they enter the job market.

But is it working?

Apparently not. According to the Indian Express, the government claims to have trained close to 20 lakh people under the scheme in a period of 10 months from July 2015 - April 2016, which works out to an average of more than 6,500 people being trained every single day throughout the country. However, most of these people didn’t get placed in jobs after completing their training.

The government’s own data suggests that only about 80,000 people - or less than 5% of the total trained candidates – were able to secure a placement. To put things in perspective, that’s one in every 20 candidates.

Not the first time

In May, the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship claimed that it had trained and provided skills to more than 20 lakh youth – 40% of them being women – under the scheme but stayed quiet on the number of people who got jobs afterwards.

The scheme was launched last year by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the aim of providing “ meaningful, industry relevant, skill based training” to 24 lakh Indian youth. The latest reports over the number of jobs, however, suggest that it seems to be faltering at the last mile.

This is not the first time that the dismal track record of placing skilled candidates has been reported. In May, a Right To Information request filed by the Hindustan Times revealed similar numbers. However, the numbers were refuted by the National Skill Development Corporation CEO Jayant Krishna who argued that training partners didn’t share the full data on placement and the actual numbers were many times higher.

The industry experts that the newspaper spoke to, however, debunked Krishna’s claim, saying that since training centres were involved in getting students placed, they must have the data and it should have been fairly easy to ask them to submit this information to the government.

Moreover, the Indian Express data also points out a major skew in the favour of a handful of states when it comes to training candidates. According to the data, six states make up for more than 50% of the total youth trained under the scheme. These states include Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

On the other hand, only 31% of the total trainees in UP were actually certified and a mere 30% in Madhya Pradesh.

In its official response, the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship told the paper that the large gap in the number of those trained and those placed is due to “incomplete data” and added that it is taking steps to rectify it from the upcoming year.

“The MIS [Management Information System] for the next phase of the scheme in FY17 accounts for mandatory tracking of placements of candidates,” it said. “The alignment of the new phase of the scheme to the common norms for skill development programmes also links fund disbursements to a minimum placement achievement”.