19 Million Applications. 62,000 jobs

India’s Jobs Crisis grows deeper — but there are signs of hope.

This is the first edition of The Jobscape, our fortnightly round-up of news and opinion on the state of employment and job creation in India. In the months ahead, we hope to delve deep into the issue, and bring you both fresh insights and sustainable solutions to a vexing issue. For more, follow us on Twitter at @20Mjobs.

Let’s get started with some good news. Various sectors in India are hiring! Tech hiring in India picks up, but the sobering note is that only 24,047 new jobs were created. India’s consumer durables sector saw a year-on-year growth of 27 percent from August 2017 to August 2018, indicating significant job creation over the year, but many of these new jobs are seasonal and temporary. Perhaps the most heartening news is that India’s e-commerce market is set to grow three times from about US$35 billion to US$100 billion by 2022, and may lead to a million new jobs according to Nasscom and PwC India. However, job seekers, especially in the tech sector need to be careful as scammers may try to take advantage of them.

The lure of security that a government jobs provides still endures. Indian railways received 19 million applications for 62,000 jobs at the lowest level (track maintenance, electrical helpers, etc). According to the Railway Recruitment Board, a majority of these job seekers were vastly overqualified graduates, post graduates and even (gasp!) engineers. There were 16,500 applications for 2,500-odd vacant posts of assistant professor at government-aided colleges in West Bengal. Around 50,000 graduates, 28,000 post-graduates and 3,700 PhD holders have applied for 62 vacant posts in the telecom department of UP Police. The minimum eligibility required for the post of a messenger in the UP Police is Class 5th. Finally, if it’s a government job you want, maybe the army’s the wrong place to look. The Indian armed forces are planning to go “lean and mean” by cutting 150,000 jobs by 2022-23.

Maybe that’s why young Indians seem despondent about the jobs situation. Their perceptions and expectations on employment remain bleak. Over 30% of India’s youth aged 15-29 years are ‘not in employment, education or training’ (NEETs), faring much worse than other major developing countries.

The Hindustan Times has a five-part series on India’s employment challenge. The first part looks at the central challenge for jobs in India: how to move agricultural workers to well-paying non-farm jobs. The second critiques Bhalla and Das’s claims that the Indian economy created 12.8 million jobs in 2017. The third part examines the problem of wages by contrasting having a job with having the wage one wants (or needs). The last two parts investigate the low female labour participation rate in the Indian economy and the role of caste discrimination in job markets.

Mint has an in-depth editorial focusing on quality of jobs, not just quantity, looking at productivity, employment elasticity and Indian enterprise’s problems of scale.

The former finance minister P Chidambaram challenges the notion that the PM’s MUDRA scheme’s loan amount of Rs. 47,268 is sufficient to create a job. Mohan Guruswamy at Asia Times also contests the MUDRA scheme job numbers, quoting CMIE where nearly 5 million workers lost their jobs in the past year and the unemployment rate rose to 6.4% in August 2018 from 4.1% in July 2017.

Jaya Jaitly, former President of the Samata Party, and currently with Dastkari Haat Samiti, proposes growth in the handicrafts industry to boost jobs. But is the industry able to scale up to meet the demand?

If you ask Sadhguru, there is no jobs crisis in India. Let’s welcome the new Doyen of Denial! Regardless of what the godmen think, the government seems to think this is a serious issue. It is planning to spend Rs. 1 trillion (1 lakh crore) to set up 14 mega national employment zones across the country with the aim to provide direct and indirect jobs to  million youth over next three years.

And finally, let’s end on a hopeful note, with chai and rozgaar! Vinod Pandey, a social entrepreneur, started a tea stall in rural Madhya Pradesh, which, apart from selling tea and snacks, also acts as a center for exchanging information about employment and livelihood opportunities. That’s the very best kind of Chai Pe Charcha.