While some leaders of the present government are blithely going about giving the world supposed lessons on how to govern, as Narendra Modi did at the UN General Assembly, and some others are busy handing out concessions to domestic and foreign corporates, the people in India are getting strangled by ever increasing joblessness, compounded by job losses due to the ongoing economic slowdown.
The latest figures released by the CMIE (Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy) estimate that the number of unemployed continues to relentlessly rise, reaching 4.5 crore by August end, up 1.1 crore over last year and by 2 crore in two years. [See chart below] This is for all those jobless people who are willing to work, whether actively seeking jobs or not. Weekly estimates point to an unemployment rate nearing a record 10% mark – 9.94% to be precise, as of September 27.
Among the unemployed, youth between 20 to 29 years of age number just over three crore. That’s a staggering jump of 73% in the past two years. [See chart below] So, youth unemployment is currently at 28%. Much is made of the so-called demographic dividend, that is, the existence of a large population in the productive age group. But it is being tragically frittered away if nearly a third of them are sitting idle, with no job prospects in sight.
Among women, India had always had a very poor record of job opportunities, with women’s participation in work at abysmal levels. But in the current situation of distress, women’s joblessness, too, has steadily worsened, with the latest CMIE estimates pegging it at just over 27%, up from nearly 22% last year and about 17% in 2017. [See chart below]
As you may have noticed, the Modi government has not announced any measure for improving job creation. They think that giving easy bank loans, giving tax breaks and bail-outs to corporate bodies will somehow translate into more jobs. However, other data from CMIE shows that for 2018-19, corporate net profits grew at a healthy 22.3% and yet there was no significant additional job creation. Corporate houses are not interested in expanding production – they are more interested in dividends.
But the fact remains that capacity utilisation in industries is at a low of around 75%, sales revenues are dropping across the board, bank credit is growing very slowly and wages are stagnating.
In fact, low wage growth in all sectors – agriculture, industry and services – coupled with low prices for farmers’ produce and a tight-fisted public expenditure policy all mean that the government is singularly failing to put money into the hands of the people. So, the possibility of a revival of the economy is bleak in the near future.
This will have catastrophic consequences on the jobs front. An already dire jobs situation is bound to worsen further.
The other, hidden part of the unemployment problem is under-employment, that is, people working on low paying jobs in the absence of better jobs. This is the reason why CMIE data also shows that 1.13 crore graduates are unemployed. That’s 17.4% of all graduates – the highest rate of unemployment among all educational categories. They are unable to find jobs suitable to their qualifications, which is bizarrely described by some apologists as a situation of ‘shortage’ of labour. Some estimates put such under-employed workforce at as much as 30-35% of all employed.
The Modi government spent its first five years tinkering around with various schemes and programmes, sometimes stressing skilling programmes, sometimes emphasising entrepreneurship development through bank loans. All that failed. Now, in its new five-year term, it has simply buried its head in sand, pretending that the jobs crisis does not even exist. This indicates a period of intensifying crisis in the coming months, which is sure to find reflection in the political arena too.