The Real Problem of Unemployment in India

The general elections are just around the corner. Interestingly, at this time of the year, you will not find the rhetoric of the Prime Minister, endorsing quite absurd ideas of finding dignity in the profession of a pakorawala. After all, the incumbent government’s Public Relations wing which is supposed to write ‘campaign harangues’ does realize that such statements crumble into their pieces every time a probing and educated Indian dismisses it.

The PM’s rhetoric might look like an idea aiming for the lower classes. However, it’s ironic that everybody including the lower classes themselves finds it absurd. Why question such insensitive assertions? Earning prestigious degrees at supposedly world-class institutions, and struggling through the back-breaking curriculum only to settle for the status of a roadside snack-peddler, is not what the Indian middle class has bargained for!

Our country, India finds itself in a strange fix. Data gathered by neutral sources (those which aren’t official) almost always contradict the reports of the official committees adhering to the statistical analysis. One simply does not know what to make of the statements disseminated by the Human Resource Ministry these days. If one believes the bureaucratic hearsay, then employment is on the rise ever since Mr. Modi convened his first Cabinet meeting. Yet, for most parts, critics of such a narrative allege that the parameters on which such findings are based, are unscrupulous and far-fetched. Rightly so – for their seems to be an irresolvable gap between what an educated and qualified Indian qualifies as ‘employment’ and what the government treats it to be. The real question that still remains is this. Have Indians truly grown unemployable over the past four years? If that is so, then it is very disturbing.

Out rightly declaring the employment scenario in India a crisis is to mistake the present for the future. India’s workforce is not yet in an employment emergency, but in no way does that mean that it cannot be. In fact, quite like the economic crisis of 2008 which befell the multitude of developed nations unprecedented, danger might arrive in India also without a fair warning. There is no immediate calamity and yet, there is enough regression in the prospect of jobs, which ought to elicit a serious concern. There is a gravely insidious scourge in the job sector taking the shape of shrinking employment opportunities, receding formal jobs, and dwindling labour force.

A demographically young country like India, teeming with a population well in excess of 1.2 billion, ought to provide proper employment and ensure an expanding working-age population. However, if the basic need for jobs is not met, the growth is in a risk of being unevenly spread. Furthermore, the proposition of unequal growth signals a workforce that shall in future, become unmanageable or unruly. Unemployed youth exceeding beyond permissible limits have always been hand-in-glove with forms of social impropriety and unrest. This foreboding is exactly what India is moving towards.

Therefore, the real enormity of the problem lies elsewhere. The employed are somewhat complacent with the plight of the unemployed, and often indulge in blaming the jobless as if the entire responsibility of their condition rests with their lack of initiative. They fail to grasp the macro-economic and political dimension of the problem which snowballs in the absence of their notice.

Statistics bear witness to the brewing quandary. India finds itself in the midst of a highly concerning investment deficit. CMIE’s CapEx database predicates a persistent plunge in new investment proposals since 2011-12. New investment proposals had peaked at ₹25 trillion in 2010-11. In 2017-18, these figures fell down to ₹11 trillion. Commentators guess that in 2018-19, these finances are unlikely to see the other side of ₹10 trillion. The inevitable upshot of this economic downside is a notable decline in the number of jobs available. An estimated 408 million people were employed in December 2017. This reduced to 397 million in December 2018. What is particularly disturbing is that a substantial fall in employment seems to be gaining ground as more financial quarters pass.

Another phenomenon should be observed closely. This decreasing availability of jobs is not translating into a proportionate rise in unemployment. To the contrary, it is manifesting into a fall of labour participation rate. This indicates that the number of people looking for jobs is on the decline and consequently, it is symptomatic of the ills entrenched in the system.

The real obstacle to effectively tackle this issue is the Indian government’s response to the pressing circumstances. When the political establishment endeavors to absurd statistical findings and sampling done in household surveys uses back-of-the-envelope calculations to measure employment, one realizes that India is heading towards a bigger crisis—where the real crisis is citizens not realizing that there exists a crisis.

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