The government flattered me by reading my column (The Indian Express, February 20, 2022). Finally, waking up to the reality of rising unemployment, she announced that 10 lakh people would be appointed to positions in the central government. With a few exceptions, every family is affected by a lack of work. Add to that the loss of jobs. Especially after the pandemic year (2020-21) and the indifferent year of recovery (2021-22), unemployment is the biggest economic challenge facing India.
On the eve of the 2014 LS elections, Mr Narendra Modi, BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister, made a strong promise to create 2 million jobs a year. There were skeptics, but their voices were drowned out by the drums of the devotees (believers). The devotees swallowed every promise, including the mind-boggling promise that “black money hidden abroad will be returned and 15 lakh rupees will be credited to the account of every Indian.” I doubt anyone did the calculations.
After the new government took office, all talks stopped about creating 2 million jobs a year or crediting the bank account of every Indian with 15 lakhs. People were unusually forgiving! The government has undertaken to update and rename the UPA schemes and claims they are his. The MGNREGA scheme, which provided jobs as a “last resort” for the poor – which was ridiculed by Mr Modi – was maintained because the government could not come up with an alternative scheme.
Bad to worse
The unemployment situation is only getting worse. There are two universally used indicators: the first is the total labor force and the second is the labor force participation rate (LFPR). The total workforce in India is 430 million. LFPR is the share of the total workforce that is currently employed or looking for work. This percentage was 42.13% in May 2022 (source: CMIE). It is one of the worst in the world (USA: 63 percent). CMIE concluded that “millions have left the labor market and even stopped looking for work, probably too disappointed by their failure to find work and convinced that there are no jobs available.” (see table)
In addition, only 20 percent have paid work, 50 percent are self-employed, and the rest are paid daily. In June 2021, according to the CMIE Consumer Pyramids Household Survey, the average monthly household income was Rs 15,000 and the consumption expenditure was Rs 11,000. In such an uncertain labor market, when the only employed person in the family lost his job – as happened during the year affected by the pandemic – this family invariably fell into disaster and poverty. The poorest were hardest hit. Data show that malnutrition and hunger have increased.
In the 8 years since 2014, millions of jobs have been lost, few jobs have been created, the LFPR has fallen and unemployment has risen. We cried hoarsely, but the government did not pay attention. It took refuge in dubious statistics. At one point, even “selling pakoras” was advertised as a job!
Hidden from view
I had written in the column of February 20, 2022, that “jobs are hidden from view!” According to government documents, there are 34,665 sanctioned government positions. As of March 2020, there were 8,722,243 vacancies, of which 7,566,146 were in Group C (source: The Hindu). Each site is affected, but no more than SCs and STs. If 10 lakhs are hired over the next 18 months, this is a good start, but the net addition to the jobs already identified will be 10 000 000 minus 8 72 243 or only 1 27 757.
The government needs to do much more. There are millions of jobs that need to be “identified”, “discovered” or “created”, such as teachers, researchers, librarians, sports coaches, educators, physiotherapists, counselors, doctors, nurses, paramedics, laboratory technicians, sanitation and caregivers. workers, urban planners, architects, agricultural expansion workers, food processors, veterinarians, fishermen, etc.
These are the “main” jobs in a developing country. The government does not seem to know about these possibilities.
Jobs outside the government
Most jobs are outside the government. They are in the private sector, especially in areas that are not fully explored, such as the oceans, rivers and water basins and terrestrial agriculture. There is a huge population that has many needs that are not being met. Meeting these needs, even in part, will create millions of jobs. Take personal transport: 24.7% of households do not own a car, motorcycle or bicycle. Or consider household goods: in a tropical country, only 24% of households have air conditioning or air coolers. Only the provision of these basic goods at affordable prices to millions of households will significantly expand the country’s production capacity, create thousands of jobs and make life happier.
Jobs were to be the only focus of Modi’s government. Was not; lost 8 years. He used his social and political capital to divide the people of India. Thanks to the wrong policy, divided India has also suffered economically. 10 lakh government jobs will not heal wounds or repair the damage to the economy. It is too little and too late.