Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his mega employment push on Tuesday ordering the recruitment of 10 lakh people in the next 18 months, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) tweeted. PM Modi had earlier this month said that employment should be the focus and instructed secretaries of the central government to ensure prompt steps to fill up vacancies in government departments and ministries.
The PMO’s tweet on Tuesday came after protests by disgruntled job seekers in some states, critique by experts and opposition parties over the Centre’s handling of the country’s unemployment predicament. In January this year, students and cops clashed in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (UP) as the former protested against alleged irregularities in the Railway Recruitment Board's examination process.
Many experts have opined time and again that the economy is not generating enough jobs and that the fundamentals need to be corrected in order to be more buoyant to occurrences like the Omicron or COVID.
Although manifesting some respite, the latest periodic labour force survey by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme implementation released on Tuesday showed that India’s unemployment rate plunged further to 4.2 per cent in 2020-21 despite the said period witnessing two waves of the COVID-19 pandemic which had left millions of workers jobless and led to the suspension of field work. It stood at 4.8 per cent in 2019-20, 5.8 per cent in 2018-19 and 6.1 per cent in 2017-18
But the big question here is if PM Modi’s latest employment push to generate 10 lakh jobs is, considering how deep the country’s job crisis runs.
India’s Job Predicament
Expressed in percentage, the unemployment rate is defined as the share of people who are without any job. The unemployment rate for a month is calculated by manifesting the total count of unemployed persons in India as a percentage of the total number of people in the labour force. However, the country’s actualities are often concealed behind numbers and the job crisis in India is no exception. Joblessness in the country essentially relates to educated young adults seeking jobs in the formal economy. This is critical as the informal economy provides jobs to 90 per cent of the labour force, which comprises poor, semi-skilled and unskilled people, and generates half the economic output.
Here’s where the predicament lies. If a person is more literate, he/she is less likely to accept a poorly paid, informal job and may continue to be jobless, whereas, the one who is less educated will take up anything he/she gets and keep away from the formal economy, and thereby, out of the formal calculation. That’s why it’s hardly surprising that highly educated and skilled people such as engineers, law graduates, MBAs etc. applying for badly paid, unskilled jobs, become eye-catching news.
Catalysts And Perils
Notwithstanding how the government fares on the job front, there are some catalysts, both intrinsic and extrinsic. As many as 12 million people hit the employment age in India every year, while, the economy has not grown commensurately to absorb this demographic growth. And to make matters worse, the pandemic sabotaged everything. Rising joblessness has myriad perils, one is diminishing intake of and demand for goods and services that decelerates the economy and, amongst many other things, getting jobs gets even tougher.
Where Are The Jobs?
The central government had informed Parliament earlier this year that there were 8.71 lakh job vacancies in central government ministries as well as departments as of March 1, 2020. According to media reports, these vacancies are in the civil defence department (2.5 lakh), Railways (2.3 lakh), home affairs ministry (1.3 lakh), posts department (90,000), and revenue department (70,000). As it’s the middle of 2022, the 8.72 lakh number could now be the 10 lakh figure the PMO may be alluding to.
The Larger Picture
If we see the big picture, filling these 10 lakh job vacancies may not be the answer to India’s job problem. Recruiting 10 lakh people in the next 18 months will help the PM Modi-led BJP government present a better progress report when the country goes to the polls in 2024. The government will also have to create more jobs alongside filling them, as it promised during every election. The state governments along with the private sector will also have to do more on the jobs front.
Soon after the PMO’s tweet on Tuesday, BJP MP Varun Gandhi, who has been an outspoken critic of the Centre, tweeted that there were 1 crore vacancies and that the Modi government must work harder to keep its promise of giving 2 crore jobs.
Prime Minister Modi came to power in 2014 with the promise of creating 2 crore jobs in the country. Meanwhile, as per a 2020 report by McKinsey Global Institute, India needs to create no less than 9 crore new non-farm jobs by 2030. According to the Centre’s budget announcement in February this year, it aims to create six million jobs over the next five years, which is a humongous target to achieve. India needs more investment in labour-intensive industries coupled with more female workforce participation, which is one of the lowest in India in the world.