Unemployed Indian youth look to traditional work

Farming, fishing and other small-scale enterprises provide an alternative to white-collar jobs
Unemployed Indian youth look to traditional work

An unemployed Indian youth selling a bubble-making device blows bubbles to attract tourists in front of the iconic Gateway of India in Mumbai. Even youngsters with higher education struggle to find jobs in India. (Photo by Indranil Mukherjee/AFP)

After graduating in economics, Pallavi Gupta started her own dairy farm without first hunting for a job with the government or industry.

The 26-year-old New Delhi woman's decision shocked her friends. But she stood firm in the knowledge that millions of other young Indians with tertiary qualifications remained unemployed.

"I have witnessed first-hand the crises of joblessness and how educated youth are made to suffer due to the increasing economic crises," Gupta told ucanews.com.

Her parents initially resisted the dairy farm plan but later accepted it.

"Instead of spending days and months on finding a job with certainty, it was better to take up a traditional livelihood method with a modern touch," Gupta said.

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Using the internet to conduct research and tapping the experience of those already in the dairy industry helped her a great deal.

She now supplies milk to some 200 fair price shops on the outskirts of New Delhi, India's bustling capital, and says she earns about 200,000 rupees (US$2,800) a month, almost four times what a manager-level government employee is paid.

Finding employment has long been a challenge for Indian youth, but their prospects have in recent times dimmed markedly, according to Father Jaison Vadassery, secretary of the Indian bishops' Commission for Labour.

A government study released in 2017 showed that some 420 million of Indian's 1.2 billion people are aged 15-34, making them the largest youth labor force in the world. But a large proportion of those who pursue higher education struggle to secure jobs.

This constitutes a failure by India to use the capacity of youth for its socioeconomic development, Father Vadassery said.

"There are absolutely no policies implemented by the government for them," he added. "Also, the new tax regime and demonetization have left small-scale industries in dire straits, causing an epidemic of joblessness in the country."

The Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy estimated that in 2017 some 31 million Indians were looking for jobs. And the country lost an estimated 11 million jobs between July 2017 and June 2018, according to a study by the National Sample Survey Office.

Many blame Prime Minister Narendra Modi's policies for growing unemployment. A new goods and services tax (GST) and the 2016 decision to withdraw high-value banknotes from circulation overnight are partly blamed for the nation's economic slowdown.

Father Vadassery told ucanews.com that government policies favoured big business rather than the workforce.

The priest noted that workers in the unorganized sector, constituting 94 percent of India's workforce, earn less than 200 rupees (US$2.80) a day on average.

It helps the nation as well as individuals when young people such as Gupta turn to traditional livelihood methods such as farming and fishing by using new technologies to improve profitability, he added.

According to the latest World Bank report, more than eight million jobs are required every year for India to keep its employment rate constant.

Junaid Irfan, an economist working in New Delhi, said it was not possible to provide white-collar jobs for all young people seeking a livelihood and part of the deficit could be filled by involvement in small-scale undertakings.

One example is that of Shahid Qureshi, 23, in India's Kashmir Valley. After acquiring a bachelor's degree, he started a fish farm on his ancestral land and went on to earn a profit of some 12,000 rupees (US$169) monthly.

"It is much better for me than wandering from one company to another for a job," he told ucanews.com.

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