Free Press Journal

Where are the jobs anyway?


Mumbai : The urgency to take control of rising unemployment (and creating new jobs) has overshadowed the third anniversary celebrations of the BJP-led government. This growing unemployment could pose as a grave danger for the country in times to come.

As a retired IAS officer puts it, “Time is running out. Jobs should be created urgently.” According to various data sources, in 2009 (under the Manmohan Singh government) the country created 10 lakh jobs. Up until 2011, around 9 lakh new jobs were created each year on an average. However, this number fell sharply in 2012 and it continued to fall further till it reached a point of only 1.35 lakh new jobs in 2015 (data after analysing eight employment-intensive industries). This was in sharp contrast to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise of creating one crore jobs every year. According to Labour Bureau data, job creation could be at the lowest level in the past eight years. The eight employment-intensive industries were able to create 1.35 lakh jobs in 2015 compared to 4.21 lakh jobs in 2014, as per the employment survey.

According to a recent CII report, every year there is a total demand of 17-20 million jobs. The total demand is calculated keeping in mind the 10-12 million young people joining the labour force and additional 2-3 million educated and unemployed workers looking for jobs in the industry. Moreover, around 5 million people from agricultural sector join non-agricultural sector. Santosh Mehrotra, Professor of Economics, Centre for Informal Sector and Labour Studies in a forum had stated that the number of youth moving from agriculture to non-agriculture has been increasing and these youth do not want to be in agriculture sector. He believes that India will have to prepare for this huge transition.

 Compared to GDP growth, India’s job creation has been marginal and it will continue to fall if immediate redressal is not done. “Many parts of the system must be changed together for the system to create more jobs, enterprises and livelihood,” pointed out CII’s report on ‘Future of Jobs in India’. “We have learnt but looks like the system has not learnt,” stated Arun Maira, former member, Planning Commission of India who has presently taken the role of management advisor.

 Maira and former industry secretary and former chairman, NMCC, Government of India, Ajay Shankar believe that India needs a modern version of an industrial policy. Shankar said, “We need an industrial policy as an idea to operate through the system. So that we think in a way, take decisions and address issues.” He added that authorities need to look at a particular industry and see if they can do something for them to evolve and help them succeed. Maira cited the IT sector which was able to evolve due to the conducive environment created under the industrial policy regime.

When quizzed about the need of the hour, Shankar said, “(First) You need regulatory burden to go down. So, that start-ups in the convention economy where the word ‘factory’ and ‘worker’ operates have the same ease of doing business as the IT and the finance professional have. Second the social security net.”

Social Security is yet an area that India needs to address. Around 93 per cent of India’s workforce lack social protection. According to reports, India has a total workforce of 500 million and about 25 million have access to old age protection through Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO). India’s social security does not come in par with African countries, stated Mehrotra. That is where India stands in social security.

Mehrotra stated that if the country was to cover 22 per cent of below poverty level (BPL) households (as per Tendulkar Committee definition) with various social protection schemes it would account for 0.40 per cent of the GDP per annum. Here social protection schemes can include death, disability, maternity and old age insurance. “Universal social security should be given to all. All social security schemes should be converged— be it schemes run by state, centre, corporates and NGOs,” said Virjesh Upadhyay, All India General Secretary of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh. He also pointed out that there are some who enjoy the benefit of multiple schemes and then there are many in the country who do not have access to even one scheme.

Upadhyay added that villages have to become self-reliant which they were before the globalisation concept took root. With tools and technologies, the villages can become self-reliant again. “The financial requirements for these (tools) are less but the benefits could be huge,” added Upadhyay.

 Such a view is reinforced by Osama Manzar, founder and director, Digital Empowerment Foundation. His foundation claims it can create 1 million jobs (for network operators across various clusters in India. He pointed out that these network operators) can manage the networks in rural India (as many of these villages lack proper connectivity). Skilling the 6,000 clusters close to home will be vital as it prevents uprooting of people from rural India and moving them to metro cities. Mehrotra said that there is a need to strengthen alternative jobs in the country. India needs job and that jobs need to grown locally.

According to the UNDP report, the size of the working-age population in India increased by 300 million between 1991 and 2013, while the number of employed people increased by only 140 million—the economy absorbed less than half the new entrants into the labour market. The report suggest that over next 35 years, India will face the serious challenge of finding jobs for a growing population. Srikanth Viswanathan, CEO of Jaanagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy said that around 50 per cent of jobs will not exist in the next five years. He also believes that more than 55 per cent of school kids will not have jobs by the time they pass out. This shows what BJP-led government could will have to face, if it is eyeing 2019 mandate. It would be a game of not just targets but ways and means to achieve that goal. “Any target will be possible if the environment is an enabling environment,” added Shankar.

One of ways to move forward would be to focus on skilling (and multi-skilling options) the Indian population even while it is initiated into primary education. Most importantly, skill the youth in such a way that they not just create employment opportunities for themselves but others as well. “If government cannot create jobs than people should create them for themselves and others. It means that they should have an eco-system for it,” added Shankar.

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