As India votes in the 17th general elections, unemployment has reached a crisis level. According to a leaked employment survey, joblessness is the highest in the last five decades.
“Even after finishing my B.Ed in 2017and with 10 months of experience in teaching at a reputed school, I still had to wait for a whole year to get a job. During that time period I sent my resumé to almost all educational institutions that had vacancies, but all in vain,” says Toshi Karan, a teacher at a private school in Kolkata. Karan’s experience is hardly unique and hundreds of thousands of relatively well-educated, young Indians find themselves jobless, a state that can continue for years.
Last year, when the Indian Railways advertised for about 100,000 jobs, mainly for unskilled workers, nearly 30 million people ended up applying. A large majority of those seeking the job were well-educated graduates, engineers and MBAs. Similarly, nearly 300,000 people, including law and marketing graduates applied for 780 positions for peons and earlier this year, over 4000 graduates including engineers applied for 14 positions of sanitary workers.
A recent analysis by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) has shown that the rate of unemployment among qualified youth, those with bachelor degrees and higher, has seen a sharp increase from mid 2017. “When I started looking for jobs after completing my graduation in 2017 the opportunities that came my way were few and far between. Ultimately to find better job opportunities in my desired field, I decided to do an internship in the particular profile of client servicing. After my internship,the job hunt began again but to my surprise I still faced rejections while appearing for walk-in interviews in startups as well as big MNCs for customer service or sales profile,” recounts 24 year old Ankit Gulati.
During the 2014 election campaign, Modi had promised to reverse the trend of growing joblessness in the country and create 10 million jobs annually to eliminate unemployment, and by 2022 he promised to create 100 million jobs under Make in India, his pet scheme to boost the manufacturing industry in the country. However, the five years under Modi have seen a record decline in new jobs created. In the last four and a half years of the Modi government, flagship job schemes across the country, including those from Make in India, could create only 2.75 million jobs, a set of leaked central government data revealed.
As India votes in the 17th general elections unemployment has reached a crisis level. According to a leaked data on the latest employment survey, the country’s 2017-18 unemployment rate stood at 6.1 pc – the highest it has been since 1972-73. By comparison, the rate was 2.2 pc in 2011-12.
The joblessness is particularly high among people between 15 and 29 years – in urban India, 18.7 pc of men and 27.2 pc of women in this age group are looking for jobs, while in rural India, its 17.4 pc and 13.6 pc respectively. As per National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) report, unemployment rate for the youth is at an alarming high level of 13-27 pc, the highest in the last four decades.
The government claims that report was not final, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that jobs are not lacking but data on jobs has been lacking. However, another survey conducted by CMIE, says that lack of jobs are the single biggest crisis facing India’s youth. As per the survey, unemployment rate has touched 7.2 pc. Another research titled State of Working India (SWI) 2019 by Azim Premji University, also backs this data and says that unemployment rate in India has doubled in the eight years to 2018.
All schemes, no score
The BJP launched three major employment generation schemes,the Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP), DeenDayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY), DeenDayalAntodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM), to provide employment opportunities to rural and urban youth besides skilling them for future jobs, but that too didn’t change much.
The PMEGP, aimed at generating self-employment through micro-enterprises and non-farm sector, could only create 178,800 jobs from 2014-2018. According to a state-wise data collected by the Centre showed that while the most-populated Uttar Pradesh created almost 200,000 jobs in four years under PMEGP, the industrially-developed Tamil Nadu stood second with 138,000 jobs during 2014-18; followed by Maharashtra 117,000 and Karnataka could only create 108,000 jobs.
Another flagship government programme, DDU-GKY under which rural youth are skilled in sector-specific job competencies, only about 500,000 placements could be made across the country. The scheme was designed to benefit more than 55 million poor rural youth and was meant to be a major contributor of trained manpower to the Make in India campaign. A report by the National Skill Development Corporation, which is in charge of the vocational education programmes in the country, said that less than 10 pc of all the students churned out from thousands of skilling centres could find a job in fiscal 2017-18, pointing at the extremely low quality of skilling as well as a severe mismatch between the skills provided and the needs of the industry.
DAY-NULM, the third scheme launched by Modi to reduce poverty and vulnerability among urban poor, could see the placement of only 472,000 youth in the last five years.
Informal sector faces the brunt
Paul Krugman, Nobel-winning American economist had warned last year that India could end up with mass unemployment if it does not grow its manufacturing sector. However, the manufacturing sector, most of it small and unorganised, has been hit the hardest by two of the government’s measures that came in quick succession – demonetisation and a rushed, unprepared implementation of the uniform tax code, the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
The report by Azim Premji University says that the two measures together led to over 5 million workers losing their jobs, almost all of them in small manufacturing units. The report highlights that the labour force participation started declining suddenly between September and December 2016 for both urban and rural men. Prof Amit Basole, the lead researcher, said, “Apart from demonetisation and GST, as far as informal economy is concerned, I don’t see any other reasons.”
In addition to rising unemployment among the higher educated, the less educated (and likely, informal) workers have also seen job losses and reduced work opportunities since 2016. The decline, particularly in labour force participation rate (LFPR) and work participation rate (WPR), has been driven by less-educated men in urban and rural areas. More than 90 pc of the Indian labour market is informal, while only 2.3 pc of the workforce has undergone formal skills training, compared to 75 pc in Germany and 30 pc in China.
“Since Modi came to power in 2014, we millennials hoped for rapid growth in industrialisation and many job opportunities to choose a career of our desired choice. But the situation is just the opposite,” despairs Gulati.