New Delhi: More than ‘why’ a large number of people are jobless, perhaps – who are the ‘jobless’ lot is the bigger question! Coronavirus, Lockdown and decline in industrial growth and exports have certainly led to shrinking employment.
Joblessness has been a feature in the Indian economy and social life even a decade back and many years preceding that. Even a decade back, around 2010 during the UPA regime, the immediate unavoidable effect on Indian economy and also most emerging economies have been in decline in demand for exports. There were other factors during the last two to three years for a bleak job scenario. Of course the main cause has been the dreaded Covid19 and repeated shutdowns at various stages.
Some statistics are a matter of concern
About 1.8 crore workers in India will need to transition into new jobs by 2030. McKinsey says that, due to the impact of Covid 19, up to 25 percent more workers in the economies analysed (US, China, Germany, Japan, UK, France, Spain, India) may need to switch occupations by 2030 than previously estimated. Studies also say over 20 million workers may have to move out of agriculture by 2030. Moreover, Mckinsey says, low-wage occupations may decline by 2030 for the first time.
In contrast, professions under STEM (covering fields of science, technology, engineering or math) would continue to expand.
Of course, post-1999-economic liberalisation, the entrepreneurship zeal among Indians was unleashed. But it is also true the general tendency in this country has been that people want ‘everything’ to be given to them – including the jobs.
The aspiration is that jobs should be at the doorsteps. It should be in small townships and preferably in the village and hamlets they reside. And the job profile should not be too taxing. Then comes the typical Indian’s craze for regional foods. This scribe has come across hundreds of jobless people and their parents and well-wishers from time to time in eastern India – who would refuse to take up jobs in Haryana or Gujarat, because you do not get fish easily.
Similarly, I found a few residents of Gujarat (not native Gujaratis) who were hesitant to take up assignments in the eastern city of Kolkata. The worry was, will they have adequate vegetarian food and what about Rotis and so on.
With regard to jobs, experienced Kerala people say hundreds of Malayali young men and women and even modestly grown-up can do anything when they go to “Gulfe”, but would throw up tantrums when it comes to working in the state or some parts of India.
Of course, it has been encouraging to note that job seekers from Kerala have over the years moved out of their ‘God’s own country’ and even landed in far-flung northeastern states to settle for government jobs despite the occupational hazards.
Another issue is even now, not enough people aspire to be entrepreneurs. In most cases, we have people afraid of failure or afraid of trying. Needless to add here, that trying something new and tough is an essential feature of one’s life and a basic rule to survival Mantra. You cannot learn nor can you achieve anything significant without hard work or without failing.
‘Playing things safe’ is the in-thing in our lives. Hence, in January this year I was witness to engineers, medicos and M.Pharma qualified lot appearing for lower-court clerical jobs in Tripura.
The 'working class friendly' Marxists have ruled the state for long till 2018, but hardly a good 'alternative' job-generating industry was created. In another northeastern state Mizoram, the locals are hardworking and pragmatic. In contrast, in Nagaland – locals have been preferring easy 'government jobs.
On this backdrop came some stark and dark facets of the national unemployment scenario. A survey in December 2020 claimed that nearly 80 per cent of people who came back to their jobs after the first round of Covid19 shutdown and its fallout agreed to work for less pay and even opted for self-employment.
Moreover, fewer women were back in the workforce. A shift in consumer behaviour has been the increased reliance on e-commerce platforms and gradually this phenomenon has hit normal job scene as well.
True, the carpet has been pulled from under many employed people’s feet including women or sole bread earners. There have been individual instances wherein employees put up 10-15 years but did not get gratuity. What has gone in these people’s mind is anybody’s guess?
Surveys have revealed that nearly 7.35 million people lost their bead-earning avenues to the second wave of the pandemic. And we are still talking about the third wave. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) says the number of employees, both salaried and non-salaried, fell from 400.7 million in Jan 2021 to 398.14 million in March to 390.79 million in April 2021.
So, how does the stage move from this scenario and who can bell the cat? Of course, the initiative has to come from the new generation. The problem is these youngsters have been brought up in a typical ‘unhealthy atmosphere’ of working conditions and mindsets. They saw elders trying all sorts of tricks and manipulation and achieving success too.
Hence, the moral and ethical values are at nadir – not because they were born such. But they found these ‘negative aspects’ as societal necessities. Younger people from families where elders and parents have been ‘sachcha communists and idealists’ have taken to real estate ‘dalali’ (brokerage) as their profession. There is a growing maxim that even to afford honesty in today’s life, there is a need for 'cash' and 'jugadu qualities'.
Getting a job by hook or crook has become an essential feature. Next comes the confusion of educated lot and ‘trained’ people who avail studies on subsidies and from leading government-run institutes.
Often engineering pass-outs think they should join media institutes for some kind of easy job in towns and cities where they live.
Some years ago, NREGA – essentially a rural job scheme for the less-educated – was considered a panacea to every ills of unemployment. But there were serious problems in the successful implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA as well.
A few important points made in a study by the Lal Bahadur Shastri Institute of Management, Delhi showed for NREGA, there was a high degree of ‘disguised’ unemployment.
Changes have been brought in the NREGA by-laws to make it demand-driven. But complaints persist. The introduction of all payment mechanisms through banks have annoyed many including political stakeholders. The leakage was a boon for a particular section.
To sum up, the entire approach to the employment scenario has to change and the government has to encourage investment which not only gives higher GDP, but that it can create jobs. In 2004-05, GDP figures stood at around 7 percent, but the growth of employment was 1.87 percent. Ten years prior to that in the decade 1983-94, the growth of employment was 2.06.
The ‘Past’ is important to draw lessons. Past is something which we cannot repeat. It is lost somewhere, but the paradox is we are also unable to leave it behind.