Opinion The Jobscape

From Jobless Growth to Job-Loss Growth

This is the eleventh 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 recruitment in the armed forces, women and jobs in STEM, artificial intelligence and the woes of youth.

Job creation news

We start with the good news. The entertainment industry is booming thanks to Netflix and other online content providers creating new programs for the Indian market as the number of online viewers is set to cross half a billion in two years. A quick search at naukri.com shows openings for nearly 11,000 jobs in entertainment.

Food Corporation of India has 4103 vacancies all across India in various capacities.

The Indian army is recruiting across ranks, from officers to soldiers on general duty. And it’s not just men. Women are also encouraged to join.

The start-up incubator T-Hub in Hyderabad has helped create over 2000 jobs through the start-ups it supports – and this is only for its first batch which started last May. Applications are open for the second batch.

Helping those affected by the Pulwama terrorist attack

After the horrific Pulwama terrorist attack, many organizations and people have come forward to help the widows and children of the victims lost that day. These include Reliance Foundation; Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Palaniswami; the Global Association for Corporate Services (GACS) which has over 700 corporate firms as members; various sportspeople including Virender Sehwag and Vijender Singh; Amitabh Bachchan and others.

Skilling India

There was a time when Singapore looked up to Air India for inspiration in the aviation sector. Today, the roles are reversed with Singapore and India signing an agreement to skill Indian youths in aviation, hoping for overseas jobs in the sector. Air India is recruiting for a few jobs too!

The IKEA Foundation is funding entrepreneurship education and skilling in 500 schools in Bihar, reaching 400,000 young people.

Is the post-graduate delivering food a “jobs issue” or is it more of an education issue? Will PhD Swiggy drivers be the Indian equivalent of the liberal arts majors who sling coffee at Starbucks?

Women and jobs

How many of us know the agricultural scientist Janaki Ammal or BP Dakshayani, ISRO’s head of flight dynamics and space navigation? IBM India hopes to encourage girls to enroll for STEM education and pursue a career in sciences.

Women who Code and VMWare are teaming up to retrain 15,000 women in India for technical jobs. More power to them!

Remote work is becoming more desirable and it is especially helpful for women. In a recent survey, over half of the respondents would even consider a pay cut if they were allowed to work from home.

One would think that the support structure in a joint family would help women working outside the home. Alas, that is not so in India. Indian women in nuclear families are twice as likely to be in non-farm jobs than those in joint families. This is in contrast with other Asian countries like Japan, where living in a joint family increases the chances of women working outside the home.

Data and discussions on jobs

According to data tabled in the Rajya Sabha, the last four-and-a-half years of the Modi government created only 2.75 million jobs, far less than the 20 million promised.

The government is hiding data – recent Right to Information requests by researchers at the Azim Premji University have shown that the Labour Bureau’s report on employment is supposedly ready. Why is it not being released?

Even in the face of hard data, there are some naysayers who believe there is no jobs problem because of the “billions of Indians” working for Uber and Ola! (I promise, this is not satire.)

Manmohan Singh, India’s former prime minister and a prominent economist, criticized the government’s rollout of the goods and service tax (GST) and blamed it for the employment problems and for damaging the small and unorganized sectors of the economy. He used an interested phrase, stating that “jobless growth was turning into job-loss growth”!

Mahesh Vyas opines that more than the problem of shrinking employment opportunities, the real crisis is the government’s tone-deaf response. Manish Sabharwal’s tack is that we need more high-wage jobs and these jobs need a complex ecosystem of highly productive firms and worker.

With the recent issues with NSSO’s employment data, is it time to take a look at our GDP numbers and are the growth numbers reliable?

AI and jobs

In the recent budget, Minister Piyush Goyal announced the creation of a national programme on artificial intelligence (AI). But are there socioeconomic and political issues with the government’s “AI for all” strategy? In the United States, there is already discussion that AI could widen the disparity between coastal cities and the heartland. On the other hand, an increasing emphasis on cognitive skills and emotional intelligence in AI jobs might help women as they perform better on those skill sets.

In India, we seem to have the problem of plenty. Not only is AI not taking away jobs, it is creating more jobs than we can supply. According the NASSCOM, there is a shortage of skilled workforce in AI and data analytics. And these jobs command a premium of around 70% higher salaries compared to plain vanilla computer science graduates.

Before we get too cocky, we must evolve and improve our skills – the old call center jobs may be fast vanishing.

News from the states

The situation is so desperate in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra that youth are dropping out of school to look for jobs. The drought in the region has forced other students to get part time jobs while studying. In contrast, the coastal region of Konkan in the same state is doing well: development works of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) will generate 125,000 jobs in the next 2-3 years.

Jharkhand is the latest state to implement the 10% reservation for the economically backward in government jobs and educational institutions.

More reservations. This time in Rajasthan where the new government passed a bill giving a 5% quota for Gujjars and four other communities. But will these promises of reservations actually lead to large-scale job creation? That’s what’s needed and most probably ignored in the rush towards reservations.

Many states hold job fairs to encourage employment – however there are drawbacks. Punjab has seen protests and allegations that the job fairs run by the state government perpetrate fraud.

Despite the terrorist attacks, or maybe because of them, Kashmiris are lining up to join the Indian army. 2500 Kashmiris recently applied for 111 army jobs during an army recruitment rally in Baramulla.

Jobs and youth

In the next general election, 45 million young people will vote for the first time and jobs is a priority issue for them.

The lack of employment opportunities is creating a generation of unemployed youth with far-reaching sociological effects like a deep existential crisis and a sense of being “out of time”. Young people are protesting, asking for jobs and a better education system.

Educated young people are looking beyond shrinking white-collar or government jobs and going back to traditional livelihoods like dairy farming and fishing.

The BJP’s young wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Yuva Parishad (ABVP) is tamping down expectations on job creation stating that creating 20 million jobs is difficult for any government, not just the BJP.

Is the problem that the government has no National Employment Policy to tackle to job issues among India’s youth?

Other stories

When people are desperate for a government job, they become easy prey for scamsters. The latest case is of a man from Srinagar who cheated more than a score of people of Rs 2.5 lakhs each by creating fake websites and promising people jobs in the Indian Railways, State Bank of India and Food Corporation of India.

Job vulnerability is a huge issue in India with more than 80% of the workforce in the unorganized sector. Social protection benefits like health insurance or pensions can lower that vulnerability. However, in India only 10.3% of the working population report contributions to social insurance plans. In countries like Brazil that number is nearly 60% — even our neighbor Sri Lanka has 24% of the workforce contributing to social insurance plans.

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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.