Where Are the Jobs?

ALL the claims made by Prime Minister Modi and his government about the number of jobs being created have proved to be baseless. The harsh reality of rising unemployment is being seen every day.

Recently, on September 17, 1.9 crore applicants appeared for the Railway Recruitment Board exam to fill 62,907 vacancies for jobs at Level I (equivalent to Group D). These are jobs such as gangman, gateman, helpers in electrical and mechanical departments etc.  A large number of those who appeared were postgraduates.

Earlier, in Uttar Pradesh, 23 lakh people applied for around 400 Class IV jobs, of these 50,000 were graduates.  Similarly in West Bengal, in 2017, for 6,000 jobs in Class IV, or, Group D  category, 25 lakh candidates appeared for  the examination, many of them graduate, or, postgraduate degree holders.  More than two lakh candidates appeared for 1,137 vacancies for police constables in Mumbai.  The basic qualification required was 12th standard, but among those who applied were 543 postgraduates and 425 engineering graduates.

What is striking about these figures is the huge number of job seekers and, secondly, a large number of those who applied are over-qualified for the posts.  This shows the enormity of educated unemployment.

This is a fact confirmed by a study conducted by the Azim Premji University in its report “State of Working India”.  The study found that unemployment rate among the graduates is three times the national average of all unemployed. It also found that unemployment among young and highly educated Indians is the highest in twenty years.  The report has quantified this as of the total 2.3 crore unemployed, 90 lakhs are graduates, or, those with higher levels of education. 

The other feature is that a growing number of job seekers prefer government employment.  According to a national youth survey conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, between 2007 and 2016, the number of respondents who preferred government jobs increased from 62 per cent to 65 per cent. 

The reason for this is that the jobs available at present are in the informal sector where there is no security of jobs, low incomes and poor quality of work.  This is what compels even postgraduates and engineers to apply for Class IV jobs in the railways, or, other government related sectors.  At least they hope to get a permanent job and various social security benefits.

Contrary to the claims of the Modi government of generating jobs in various sectors, it is the policies of the government which have resulted in destruction of jobs.  Chief among them was the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in November 2016. According to a widely cited study by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), 35 lakh jobs were lost due to the impact of demonetisation.

The CMIE report also shows how female labour participation fell sharply due to the impact of demonetisation.  India has one of the lowest female labour participation rates in the world.

After four and a half years of the Modi government, the data on employment confirms a basic fact – neo-liberal growth does not generate employment.  According to government statistics, India’s GDP grew by 8.2 per cent in the first quarter of this financial year, i.e., from April to June 2018.  However, during the same quarter, employment declined by one per cent. 

While the growth rate of GDP appears rosy, the unemployment rate rose to 6.4 per cent in August this year.  This is higher than the 5.6 per cent rate in July and far higher than the 4.1 per cent unemployment rate recorded in August 2017.

This attests to the all-round failure of the Modi government in generating sufficient employment to meet the requirements of the new job entrants every year which is estimated to be 1.2 crore.

Modi government’s policies have perpetuated the agrarian crisis resulting in high rural unemployment; 50 per cent of the workforce in India is in agriculture.  The policies of privatisation and opening up of all basic services to the market have resulted in a bulk of employment being in the informal sector.  It is here that there is maximum exploitation with no minimum wages, job security and social security benefits. 

The only other option open is to be “self-employed” – an euphemism for those who can find no other means of livelihood.  It is to these desperate people that Modi has dangled the prospect of “making pakodas” as a decent livelihood.

If India has to provide its youth with worthwhile jobs and the growing workforce of men and women with a productive livelihood, it would require a reversal of the neo-liberal economic policies. What is to be put in place, instead, are a whole set of alternative policies with the generation of employment as the centerpiece. 
(October 17, 2018)

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