Oxford University has announced a major new study on how unemployment in India is politicising young people who often turn to “violent struggle” for a more equal society. The focus would be on North India where, it said, unemployment was more acute and causing social tensions.

“Young people have invested time and money in their education and yet find there are very few salaried jobs for them. This has left them feeling short-changed and frustrated. Educational levels have risen rapidly but there is a big gap between their aspirations and the reality of the current jobs market,” said Dr. Craig Jeffrey who has worked extensively in India and will lead the study.

A Lecturer in Human Geography at Oxford and author of the book ‘Timepass' based on his research in North India, Dr. Jeffrey said scholars know “surprisingly little” about the extent to which unemployment was pushing educated young people towards “political actions”. This had resulted in “media stereotypes” of youth. The study would strive to move beyond these stereotypes.

“These questions have been largely the subject of journalistic conjecture. We want to find out from our survey whether they feel globalisation is changing their lives for the better; find out whether their political views change when they leave school; and ask them why their protest groups are not longer lasting. We will move beyond media stereotypes of youth — for example, as ‘heroes' or ‘villains' — and publicise the varied and changing roles played by educated unemployed young people,” he said.

The study is part of a bigger project in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh and the Economic and Social Research Council on the impact of unemployment on youth in South Asia. Besides India, it would study trends in Nepal and Sri Lanka.

“North India, Nepal and Sri Lanka were chosen because they each have major problems in providing work that suits the skills and qualifications of their unemployed. They also have a ‘youth-bulge' in their population of mainly young men. While the jobs market in the public sector has shrunk in these countries, the private sector has not filled the gap in providing secure, salaried job opportunities. There are political differences too between the three countries: India is a democracy where people are free to protest; Sri Lanka has a history of more authoritarian forms of government; while Nepal only broke from monarchic rule recently, in 2006,” Dr. Jeffrey said.

The university said that its findings would have wider global relevance as unemployment was now a critical problem across the world.