In India, Educated Youths Face Dearth of Jobs

Masuma Parveen

2015-09-04
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150904-IN-patels-1000 Members of the Patel, or Patidar, community rally in Ahmedabad, India, to demand better opportunities in government jobs and education, Aug. 25, 2015.
AFP

In India, the government job of “peon” involves carrying files from room to room and fetching tea for the boss.

Yet when 30 such posts were advertised in the impoverished  and Maoist insurgency-hit state of Chhattisgarh, 75,000 people – including freshly minted graduates in science, engineering and the arts – rushed to apply for the lowly job that requires a Grade V education.

Public sector jobs are highly coveted across India because they’re safe and carry good benefits, but Chhattisgarh officials were forced to cancel an exam scheduled for Aug. 30, because of the overwhelming number of applicants for the peon job.

“We were left astounded,” Amitabh Panda, the directorate’s commissioner, told The Hindustan Times.

The episode highlights a critical unemployment situation facing educated youths across India, experts say.

“It is not only the picture of Chhattisgarh. You can see it in other parts of India,” Anannya Chottopadhya, a sociologist in Kolkata, told BenarNews.

She pointed to the current agitation in the state of Gujarat over government jobs. Educated youths have been protesting there against the lack of opportunities for Patels, a better-off community known for its success in business.

In West Bengal recently, the state government found itself overwhelmed when it received 2.5 million applications for 50,000 primary school teaching positions, she said.

Safety in government jobs

So why did so many educated people apply for the peon’s job in Chhattisgarh?

Saswata Choudhury, an economist with the Economics and Research Institute (TERI) in New Delhi, cited two reasons.

“First, the number of graduates coming out of college every year far outnumbers the available jobs, causing deep frustration among them. This explains why there were engineering and science graduates applying for peon jobs in Chhattisgarh,” he told BenarNews.

“The second is the intense attraction for any government job, because it is secure and the salary is guaranteed even if you’re not hard working – something a private sector [firm] would never tolerate,” he added.

That is also why many university diploma holders were among the 2.5 million people who applied to be primary school teachers in West Bengal, Choudhury noted.

Burden falls on government

Experts differ as to whether this shows that the Indian economy cannot create enough jobs, despite the country’s reputation as an emerging economic giant.

Tridibesh Bandyopadhyay, an official at the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), rejects the theory that the country suffers from a critical shortage of jobs.

“There are enough openings in the private sector. But we don’t produce the number of skilled people for what we call ‘blue collar’ jobs that require training in those areas,” he told BenarNews.

“Many companies are somewhat reluctant to provide the required training for their workers, fearing their rivals would lure them away with better salaries. So the burden naturally falls on the government to train them and we can’t share it alone,” he said.

This also explains why youths rush to apply for jobs that require no special skills or prior training. And, naturally, they go after government jobs, Bandyopadhyay added.

Frustrated degree holders

Young Indians likely would disagree with the NSDC official.

Joshobonti Chokrovarty graduated from a little-known engineering college in West Bengal early in the year, but still hasn’t been able to land a job of his own choosing.

He blamed his college teachers for relying too much on textbooks, rather than providing hands-on, practical knowledge that could be gathered from the field.

“This is the crucial thing that we are lacking, and that is the reason why reputed companies do not come to our college campus for interviews as they do for better-known institutions,” he told BenarNews.

The demand for government jobs is much higher in states like Chhattisgarh, which lack a manufacturing base and industrial development, said Simanti Bandyopadhyay, an economics professor at Victoria College in Kolkata.

“Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Rajasthan are the burning examples of this phenomenon,” she told BenarNews.

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