Opinion The Jobscape

What All Those Ministers Say!

This is the ninth edition of The Jobscape, our weekly round-up of news and opinion on the state of employment and job creation in India. In this edition, we look at the ministrations of Modi’s ministers, Ambani vs Bezos, jobs for trans men, and unfair taxes on angel investors.

 Job Creation News

Amazon has nearly 1300 new job offerings in India, more than any other country in Asia-Pacific, including China, where it has less than 500 job openings. This is despite new regulations which may impact foreign sellers like Amazon. With all the discussions of Reliance entering the online retail space in India, maybe the fight of billionaires Ambani and Bezos will bring even more jobs?

India’s IT firms lead by top two companies TCS and Infosys are leading in net employee addition. TCS and Infosys added over 14,000 jobs in the second half of 2018, and this trend is expected to continue in 2019. Information Technology graduates are getting hired! Out of the 40 students from IIIT’s first batch 34 got placed. And global retail firms are hiring tech talent in Bengaluru.

We’ve reported this in the past, but good news is always worth repeating. India is now the world’s 2nd largest mobile phone manufacturer, creating 650,000 jobs in the industry in the past four years.

Indian Oil has 420 vacancies in South India. I’m sure the pun wasn’t intended.

The Skill India mission reports that it has trained 3.4 million people and helped 1 million get jobs. The northern states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan, along with Tamil Nadu in the south reported the highest placements.

Will this year see more childcare jobs? As per the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act of 2017, “companies with 50 or more employees should provide creche facilities to their employees for children under 6 years of age, and the employer must bear the complete cost of providing such childcare support to its employees. In the case of a company where the total number of employees is less than 50 but has more than 30 female employees, creche facilities are to be extended by the employer.

While most of us trudge at the bottom or the middle of the pyramid, here’s a glimpse of job changes at the top.

Prime Minister Modi and his ministers

Does Modinomics lie in tatters with poor job growth? Will the 10% reservations help it in the 2019 elections? The quota bill is seen to help the BJP with its vote bank. Or is it too late? Will the unemployment crisis cost Prime Minster Modi his job?  The opposition Congress party is already hammering away, accusing the BJP of large scale job loss due to policies like demonetization and GST.

Of course, the prime minister claims crores of job opportunities were created. How many crores? For that there’s no answer. While inaugurating the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, the PM also emphasized that India is working to provide manufacturing jobs and has jumped 65 places in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report.

Union minister Piyush Goyal believes in killing the messenger if he doesn’t like the message. He questions the CMIE data and states that there is a “robust mechanism in place to capture robust employment data” – unfortunately that so-called “robust mechanism” hasn’t been reporting much data. Goyal correctly diagnoses why so many people apply for government jobs – it gives job security irrespective of performance.

Another minister, Prakash Javadekar, who was present at the same CII event, decided to blame the victim by remarking that people “who choose not to work” cannot be considered unemployed. Of course, on the surface he is right, but our data collection is so poor that we do not know if people are choosing not to work or choosing not to report their unemployment because they think the government is not helping anyway. Javadekar recognizes the need to collect “authentic” data, but why is he waking up now, five years after this government has been in power?

Despite all the recriminations, our news media is not shy of telling truth to power. The Print fact checks the minister’s statements, showing that the real picture is more complex. Faye D’Souza captures the ministers on video and leads an engaging debate on jobs on her show. NDTV and Nation Now (video in Hindi) take Goyal and Javadekar to task.

Reservation’s fine, but where are the jobs?

The central government’s 10% reservation for economically weaker sections (EWS) will come into effect from February. In a delicious irony, the DMK in Tamil Nadu (where the total reservation is 69%) has moved the Madras High Court against the reservation for EWS.

Forbes India asks: “Reservation’s fine, but where are the jobs?” – the government is trying to reserve slices of a shrinking cake. It should focus on enlarging the cake—create more jobs—and forget about how to divide it.

This is becoming a recurring theme, with various news outlets reporting on the absurdity of creating reservations without having job openings to offer. The world is now asking about where are the jobs in India and hiding employment data no longer works.

On the other hand, Indian Railways, India’s largest employer with 1.3 million employees, has been unable to fill over a quarter million vacancies over the years.

Regardless of the bad news, the young are always optimistic. Youth groups are coming together to demand a streamlined and fair system of recruitment for government jobs.

News from the states

Kerala’s Chief Minister inaugurated India’s largest start-up ecosystem and hopes to generate 250,000 jobs in the state. Hope it helps. The Kerala government’s own analysis states that “Job creation has been a matter of serious concern in Kerala. This is manifested most notably in a very pronounced incidence of unemployment which is more than two times the all-India average.”

The Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit ended recently with companies pledging to create 2.1 million direct and indirect jobs in the Gujarat economy.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the central government has decided to stop Udaan, a Special Industry Initiative (SII) meant to give skill training to the local youth in partnership with corporate entities and make them employable. The reasons given include poor interest shown by Kashmiri youth to take up jobs outside the state and the inability of companies to provide opportunities in Kashmir.

Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal is proposing a Teach for India style solution to the problem of insufficient school teachers in rural areas. Hire graduates as teaching interns!

India Today’s political stock exchange survey in Goa shows that while citizens of the tourist paradise are happy with the current BJP government, their number one concern is still employment opportunities.

GDP growth need not lead to job growth. According to CRISIL, 12 states that beat the average GDP growth in India failed to create more jobs.

Discrimination

Trans people are slowly cracking the discrimination they face in the job market in India. A group of trans men recently got jobs as medical representatives. More power to them!

Continuing from last week, we find that women’s headcount in AI and coding jobs is dismal. Alas it’s a worldwide trend and India is no exception.

If you’re female and looking for a job in India, the southern and eastern parts of the country are your best bet. And if we didn’t know it already, Devika Kher tells us why having more women in the workforce is good for the economy.

Where angels fear to tread

The tax man is coming after Indian start-up angel investors and the start-ups are complaining about the unfairness. “Introduced in 2012, Section 56(2)(viib) of the Income-Tax Act taxes any investments made by an Indian entity in an unlisted Indian company above fair market value as income… Surprisingly, investments by overseas entities are exempt. Hundreds of I-T notices have gone out to startups already battling the twin challenges of global competition and fund availability.” This may have a chilling effect on start-up investments and will make the Indian government’s claim of creating entrepreneurial jobs a joke.

Jobs and migration

Brexit may be helping Indians get jobs in the UK. Last year, we noted that this might just be wishful thinking.

Fifteen Indians were duped by an unscrupulous agent and are now languishing in Iraq. What’s surprising isn’t the job scam—that, alas, is common. It’s that Indians are so desperate for a job that some are paying lakhs of rupees to get a job in a war-ravaged place like Iraq.

We discuss a lot of migration to foreign shores. But there is major migration happening right here in India. Chinmay Tumbe describes a great Indian migration wave where people from states like Uttar Pradesh travel across the country to Gujarat for better job opportunities.

Skilling

A major issue in skilling was that our higher education was churning out graduates which were functionally unemployable in their disciplines. Are integrated courses, which aim to bridge the gap between industry and academia, the answer?

On skilling, Microsoft is planning to skill over 10,000 developers, set up AI labs in 10 universities and train half a million youth across India over the next three years.

BetterPlace, a Bengaluru based tech start-up looks to upskill the nearly half billion Indians working in the informal and semi-formal workforce, hoping to bring them into the formal sector.

Data and regulatory hurdles

The BJP’s own Murli Manohar Joshi, who heads Parliament’s Estimates Committee, notes that inadequate data on jobs is a policy hurdle. The Niti Aayog Chairman thinks it’s not jobs, but “lack of better paying jobs” that’s an issue.

Manish Sabharwal recommends loosening the regulatory framework that is choking medium, small and micro enterprises (MSMEs).

Other stories

The Economic and Political Weekly has a scholarly article on the changing task content of jobs in India. The paper’s summary notes that “in India, between 1983 and 2011, non-routine cognitive analytical task intensity jobs increased, as did non-routine cognitive interactive task intensity jobs, in line with the global trend. Manual task intensities declined, but the routine cognitive task content did not decline. Technology is likely a major factor behind this evolution of non-routine cognitive task intensities, whereas structural changes and changes in the supply of labour have shaped the manual task contents. The changing task content of jobs underlines the growing importance of cognitive skills. There is, therefore, a call for upgrading the Indian education system.” (Emphasis mine.)

Funds under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) have run out for the current fiscal year. This seems to close one avenue for poor people to get employment for the remaining two and half months of the fiscal year, which ends on March 31.

And finally, Rahul Gandhi was in the Middle East last week promising a “New India” with more jobs and better growth. One hopes that this does not remain an empty promise like the one made by the present Prime Minister.

For more on India’s jobs crisis, follow our twitter handle @20Mjobs.

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About the author

Yazad Jal

Yazad Jal is Fellow, Economic Policy at the Takshashila Institution.
Previously he worked for McKinsey and IBM in the United States and
before that in the non-profit sector in India, last serving as CEO of
Praja Foundation in Mumbai. Yazad has an MBA from Yale University and
a BA (Econ) from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai University.