March 20, 2017

Shaping Public Policy

The following interview originally appeared in The Hindu on 20 March 2017. The full text can be accessed here.

LinkedIn used its data to produce a list of the top skills from 2016, that will get you hired this year. The ranking is based on recruiter and employer activity over the past year. Number 10 on the list is ‘Public Policy and International Relations’. In this conversation with Dhruva Jaishankar, Fellow, Foreign Policy, at Brookings India in New Delhi, gives us some insights into the field, picking up the skill, and career outlook.

What is public policy and international relations?

Public policy examines how government policies — including laws, rules, norms, and their implementation — affect the well-being of states, societies, and individuals. It encompasses a wide range of issues from economic and social policies, to security and foreign policy. International relations (IR) can be considered a subset of public policy that has a transnational element, and might include international security, trade, international political economy, diplomatic history, and global governance.

The study of public policy draws from many disciplines, including political science, law, economics, history, management, statistics, psychology, sociology, security studies, urban planning, and communications.

Programmes for students in India to achieve skills in this field?

In Europe, schools for government administrators have a longer history, such as Sciences Po in France, which began in the late 19th century. In the United States, Princeton, Harvard, and Georgetown founded some of the earliest schools of public administration and international affairs in the early 20th century, with more such schools being created in North America and Europe after World War II.

In India, most education and training programmes have been oriented towards people already in government service, including those at the Indian Institute of Public Administration and Foreign Service Institute. Today, the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Indian School of Business (ISB), the O.P. Jindal Global University, and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) offer courses that address some aspects of public policy or international relations. Unlike many other disciplines, such as law, business, or engineering, there are no standard degrees or professional qualifications required to embark upon a career in public policy or IR.

Career outlook in India?

Government and public administration in India is dominated by career civil service officers, who do not necessarily require an academic background in public policy, but enter the government by taking the Civil Services Examination. There are limited career opportunities outside the government, including in public policy institutes (think tanks). This is because public policy think tanks are generally small, few, and — as non-profit organisations — poorly-resourced.

But increasingly, the private sector — both Indian corporates and multinationals — is seeking recruits with public policy backgrounds to work as consultants or government affairs specialists. Media professionals can also benefit from a public policy background to better understand some of the issues that they cover. Finally, public policy professionals can help train and teach others in academic settings — this usually requires receiving a doctorate in public policy or a related field, such as political science or economics.