Millennium Post
Opinion

Era of joblessness

The new dispensation needs to create jobs and register a growth trajectory corroborated by periodic and credible data to fulfil Indian youth’s aspirations

Results of the general election show that Modi is particularly popular among the Hindu youth with their ideas of a hero of medieval romance. They wanted an authoritative commanding personality as their leader primarily for political dominance. Though the level of joblessness had become worst in the last 45 years, they did not find any fault in him or in his policies in spite of his failure in delivering his five-year-old promise of 'work with dignity for every hand'. Rather, they believed that only a strong leader like Modi can overcome this crisis.

Nevertheless, nothing can be said with certainty about what is in store for our young population in the next five years of the Modi rule, except that they will be in great trouble on account of joblessness. The government does not seem to be serious in solving this problem on a priority basis. It is not even serious about restoring the credibility of the Indian data on growth and employment. They hid the data on unemployment with an assurance of sharing it by March-end this year which proved to be false. When the election results were being declared on May 23 and trends clearly showed Modi's win, his government came with a nasty proposal to merge NSSO with CSO, which will be the end of autonomy of NSSO.

It may be mentioned here that it was the NSSO leaked data which claimed joblessness 45 years high after 1973-74. The leaked data had come out on the eve of Lok Sabha elections. Towards the end of the election, NSSO had come out with another data putting the government claim on growth and development questionable. NSSO had found that 36 per cent of the companies were not traceable whose data were used to calculate GDP.

In this backdrop, the decision of the Modi government to merge NSSO with CSO to create a new entity named NSS betrays his intention of keeping the neutral data hidden from the public, and to release only those data which his government wants to give at their own convenient time. Only a few days after the election results were out, OECD has mentioned in its economic outlook relating to India that the country needs to release credible and timely data on economic growth, particularly regarding jobs, so that the planners may properly plan for the greatest benefit of the people.

However, what the medieval hero of modern times wants to do is obviously dangerous for the country in general and the youth in particular. He seems to be more interested in dividing the jobless youth on communal and sectarian grounds for his own lust of political dominance bordering around authoritarianism pushing democracy under his feet. Youth are being misled and driven to jingoism and communalism in place of providing them with quality jobs apart from rescuing them from increasingly costly higher education and professional skills. It is an open secret that the Modi government has been adopting such policies that made higher education and professional courses too costly for the poor and the lower middle class.

Suppression of data cannot help improve the status of joblessness or our ailing economy. Presently, two-thirds of India is below the age of 35. Around 16 million youngsters attain adulthood every year and become aspirants for a good job. They obviously look for strong leadership to fulfil their aspirations. However, given the present economic scenario of the country, almost 20 per cent of urban males and 25 per cent of the urban female is most likely to find no job at all, not to talk about any quality job. Additionally, with dwindling agricultural income as against Modi's promise of doubling farm income in five years by 2022, around 7 million youth leave farm sector and migrate in search of employment in other sectors every year. Almost 13 million people join the country's workforce annually. If India is to give work for every hand it would need to create about 20 million new jobs every year, which will be a daunting challenge for the Modi government in its second term. The dismal track record in the last five years of this government suggests that our youth have to struggle a lot to find a suitable and a good job. Disenchantment and frustration await the majority of them.

Only ten months ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told Parliament that nearly a crore or 10 million jobs were generated in a year if both formal and informal sectors were taken into consideration. Since no authentic data on jobs were available, he cited a study from an "independent institute" in support of his claim. He cited EPF and National Pension Scheme data along with the number of new professionals such as CAs and doctors to calculate formal jobs. The idea was that when professionals start their own practice, they create jobs. For the informal sector, commercial and passenger vehicles sold were cited as a proxy since vehicle need drivers and helpers. Even if we believe his claim to be true, there was a shortfall of around 10 million in job creation every year indicating that at least 50 per cent of the job aspirants did not find work in his first tenure as Prime Minister. Moreover, this 10 million figure given by the Prime Minister was not necessarily of new jobs, because he cited EPF and Pension Scheme which could also reflect higher formalisation, while the new vehicle may not have new drivers and helpers.

In absence of the reliable government data on job, some private data can be quoted here, such as of the Centre of Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). Their survey indicated that the number of people employed had shrunk by nearly 10 million in 2018. The unemployment rate in February 2019 was estimated at 7.23 per cent higher than the 5.87 per cent one year ago.

The leaked NSSO data for 2017-18 revealed an unemployment rate of 6.1 per cent. According to a World Bank data, India's working age population above the age of 15 will be expanding by 1.3 million a month. All these numbers point out the economic stress our country is undergoing which cannot be solved in the near future because economic activity has already slowed down with consumption showing signs of stagnating and prolonged investment inertia has stifled both growth impulses and new job creation.

(The views expressed are strictly personal)

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