about 7 months ago
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The Pandey family residing in Ghatkopar has six brothers, each one of them owned a shop, some selling electronic items, some selling groceries and some running xerox shops. In their community they were considered to be very well-to-do; after all six shops meant they had sustainable money.

All that has changed now. All the six shops have shut. The brothers have sold their shops and put the money in Fixed Deposits, living off the interest income, which is also dwindling as rates keep coming down. They are unemployable as they are used to be being owners, sitting on the gulla and cannot really talk about any major skills as such.

This, many say, is that tale of many households. Those who are well educated do manage to find some job but way below their caliber – they simply take up anything that comes their way. But many young people are sitting at home twiddling their thumbs, err, fingers on the mobiles.

Unemployment is a very scary situation, as scary as the rapes which happen in our country. The social unrest which unemployment can cause is dangerous. Yet, how come no one really talks about it? Or for that matter, how come there are no protests? Is no one bothered that the youth is sitting at home? Come to think of it – an empty mind is a devils workshop.

This complete silence over no jobs is really irksome. We are a resilient lot but on issues which affect our day-to-day life? Is it that our spirit is dead or that we feel are too fatigued to keep protesting over so many issues?

The real truth is that we know protesting over unemployment will get us nothing. You can protest over job quotas or reservations in jobs, education. But why not unemployment? What is very worrisome is that data shows that many have stopped looking for a job, knowing it’s a futile effort, preferring to do nothing, waste away their life.

CMIE data for Nov’19 shows unemployment rate at 7.5%, down from the three-year high of 8.45% recorded in Oct’19. In Sept it was at 7.16% and 8.19% in August.

At the same time, labour participation, which means people willing to work is coming down. Labour participation rate has fallen to lowest-ever of 42.37% in Nov’19 from 47%-48% (with an unemployment rate of 8%) in 2016 when CMIE started the survey. It covers 43,600 households each month.

In November 2019, top 5 states/UTs with highest unemployment rates are Goa (34.5%), Tripura (25.9%), Himachal Pradesh (23.3%), Haryana (20.7%) and Delhi (16%). Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have unemployment rates of 13.1% and 8.15%, respectively.

The states with the lowest unemployment rate in November are Puducherry (0.9%), Meghalaya (1.8%), Karnataka (2.2%), Tamil Nadu (2.5%) and Madhya Pradesh (3.6%). The survey has not covered the newly formed union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.

We keep on harping about the great demographic advantage India enjoys but if this energy and intellect of the youth is not being harnessed, we could have a disaster on hand. Paul Krugman is absolutely right – if India does not create manufacturing jobs soon, our growth story could go phut! More than the slowdown we are witnessing today.

About the lack of public angst, a very valid explanation is that people blame themselves for not getting a job – blaming it on not being good enough, caste, blaming it on ill fortune, no clout or connections. Thus unemployment is something which people can live with; it is not a feeling of insurmountable despair. Simply put – unemployed are not unhappy.

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