Soaring jobless rates leave many Indian youth adrift

As graduates with good degrees struggle to find jobs, a social activist warns that the situation could lead to anarchy
Soaring jobless rates leave many Indian youth adrift

Unemployed Indian youth fill in registration forms at an employment bureau in Mumbai in this file image. According to a report by the International Labor Organization, 81 percent of all employed persons in India work in the informal sector. (Photo by Indranil Mukherjee/AFP) 

Ajay Sharma, 23, is struggling for work three years after earning a master's degree in business administration with distinction. His hopes of working with an international bank look bleak.

His father, a retired government servant in New Delhi, funded his studies at a reputed institution. Even after gaining a 93 percent mark in his university exam, the jobless situation and the financial burden add to Sharma's despair.

"Things turned contrary to what I imaged during college days. The banks aren't taking any new recruits after the economy slowed down in 2016," said Sharma, who lives in New Delhi. The only job offers he got were from city restaurants with a monthly salary of about US$300.

Sharma now offers private tuition to high school students at his home and in a nearby coaching center, generating a monthly income of US$500 a month. "Can you call it a job?" he asked in a depressed tone.

Sharma is among millions of qualified young Indians forced to take up jobs that do not match their qualifications because of growing unemployment.

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According to a World Bank report published on May 2, more than eight million jobs are required every year for India to keep its employment rate constant as its working-age population of those above 15 years is increasing by 1.3 million every month.

"The trend of growing unemployment in the country is worrisome and merits serious concern from the government," said Bishop Alex Vadakumthala, chairman of the labor department at the Indian bishops' conference.

In February, two million people applied for 9,500 jobs as typists and stenographers with the government of southern Tamil Nadu state, media reports said. Applicants included 992 doctorate holders, 23,000 master of philosophy scholars, 250,000 postgraduates and 800,000 graduates.  

In March, 200,000 people applied when Mumbai police wanted to recruit 1,167 constables — and 423 applicants were engineering graduates. Other applicants included postgraduates in management, commerce and computer science besides graduates in mass media and communications.

A recent International Labor Organization (ILO) report said that by 2019 India will have 18.9 million unemployed people, making it the home of 10 percent of the world's jobless people.

The country will have a labor force of 535 million in 2019 but some 74 percent or 398.6 million will have poor-quality jobs. The report showed that in 2017 about 23 percent of India's working population lived in extreme or moderate poverty.

Young people's frantic search for good jobs reflects how the government is taking the young generation lightly and undermining their concerns, says Khalid Ahmad, a social activist and member of Kashmir's Youth Forum. 

The pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014 promising massive growth and employment. However, four years later, the situation continues to be grim and is turning grimmer with each passing day.  

Increasing unemployment could lead to anarchy as jobless young people can easily be lured to unlawful activities. "It will be the total breakdown of law but the government seems to be in no mood to address the issue," Ahmad said. 

Working in the shadows 

The ILO survey revealed that 81 percent of all employed persons in India make a living by working in the informal sector. A growing number (98.3 percent) of people aged 15-24 are working in the informal sector, compared with 67.1 percent of people aged 25 or more.

"The high incidence of informality [remains] a major challenge for the realization of decent work for all and sustainable and inclusive development," said Rafael Diez de Medina, director of the ILO's department of statistics. 

The unorganized sector, which includes farming, carpet making and wayside restaurants, contains employers not registered with the government. Employees are poorly paid for irregular work and have no leave, labor rights, social security or pensions. Their employers can fire them at will.

Management graduates like Sharma are at best part of the unorganized workforce. "I studied hard for years. All I wanted was to get a secure life with a guaranteed income. I didn't pass a management degree to teach eighth-graders," he told ucanews.com.

Praveen Mishra, a Gujarat-based civil society activist and chief of rights group Jan Sangharsh Morcha, told ucanews.com that joblessness has reached unmatched proportions. Most Indians, who have been traditionally engaged in farming and trade, do not have a sense of organized jobs and do not see unemployment as an issue for the government to resolve, he said.

The government creates issues to divert the attention of young people from burning issues such as unemployment, he said. 

"Sometimes unemployed youth are made to run after a filmmaker accused of offending religious sentiments, sometimes a cartoonist, sometimes they find a beef eater as their ultimate enemy, and sometimes a guy who gets cozy with a girlfriend on the metro," Mishra said. 

Bishop Vadakumthala suggested the government needs to roll out schemes to help young people create their own employment.

"There should be financial assistance from the government to establish small-scale industries and create self-help groups. It could help improve the situation," he said.

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