Editorial: The Grim Truth About Employment In India

Editorial: The Grim Truth About Employment In India

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Friday, March 29, 2024, 07:50 PM IST
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The share of educated youth among all unemployed population in India stood at 65.7 percent in 2022, rising by nearly 11.5 percent in two decades, while the share of unemployed youth in the total unemployed in the country was a staggering 83 percent, according to the India Employment Report released earlier this week by the International Labour Organization and Institute of Human Development. There are other trends to worry about too but none more than the narrative of the Indian youth who do not have jobs or work, especially those who are educated. Unemployment among the young registered an increase for most of last year in reports by independent think tanks too. To cut through the data clutter: India’s famed demographic dividend faces a real crisis with lack of jobs and work opportunities, and the country’s satisfying growth story – to most pro-government analysts – has given the nation an alarming jobless growth.

Even with the employment landscape, the quality has declined as evidenced in the rise of informal employment with nearly half the jobs in the formal sector now of an informal nature, in the rise of self-employment and unpaid family work, the last especially true for women. Self-employment was the primary source of livelihood for nearly 56 percent Indians in 2022. This may or may not provide a living wage for many, families dependent on such livelihoods often do not have medical security or insurance and so on; women account for a large share of the increase in self-employment. States such as Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh continue to remain at the bottom of the employment index, the report states, which will have an adverse impact on migration for jobs.

The big picture is inescapable for the Narendra Modi-led government now seeking a third term in office: the unemployment situation cannot be ignored or air-brushed away any longer. The self-talk about successful governance has created a hubris for many within the government – and its legion of supporters which, ironically, include the unemployed – who uncritically buy into the India growth story. What the government must do is embrace the recommendations in the ILO-IHD report such as the integration of employment creation agenda within the macro-economic framework, boosting manufacturing and non-farm sectors to generate jobs, and upskilling or reskilling programmes. A nation with such a large cohort of professionally unproductive and unengaged young people is good fodder for political rabble-rousing but it spells doom for them – and the nation.

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