Jobs outlook bleak: On the ‘The India Employment Report 2024’

Training for a technologically evolving economy must be accorded primacy

Updated - March 29, 2024 11:49 am IST

Published - March 29, 2024 12:10 am IST

A recent report that focused on the current status and outlook for youth employment in India paints a grim picture of the country’s widely touted ‘demographic dividend’, which appears set to waste away unless there are immediate and targeted policy interventions. ‘The India Employment Report 2024’, by the Institute for Human Development/International Labour Organisation, posits a bleak outlook for the approximately 7-8 million young people being added to the labour force each year, with youth accounting for almost 83% of India’s unemployed workforce. Even more distressing is that among the unemployed, the proportion of educated young people, those who have had a secondary level education or higher, had almost doubled to 65.7% as of 2022, from 35.2% in 2000. Also, graduates among the youth experienced a nine times greater unemployment rate (29.1%) than young persons who could not read or write (3.4%). These depressing statistics underline both an absence of jobs capable of absorbing educated young people aspiring for better paying jobs and the shortcomings in the quality of education that are leaving large numbers of educated youth still incapable of qualifying to meet job criteria. Further, wages, after accounting for inflation, have either stagnated or witnessed a decline.

The window for India to leverage its sizeable cohort of youth for wider socio-economic gains is fast closing, with the share of young people forecast to decline to 23% by 2036, from 27% in 2021. As the report’s authors note: “Unemployment and the rate of youths not in employment, education or training are high, and working conditions among a majority of employed youths are poor, although the economy has been growing at a high rate. This severely constrains the realisation of this potential [the harnessing of the demographic dividend].” Other trends, be it the significant gender imbalance in the Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR), with the women’s LFPR of 32.8% in 2022 about 2.3 times lower than the 77.2% for men, or that 90% of workers still have informal jobs, essentially emphasise the lack of a concerted overarching policy vision to ensure better jobs for all. The Chief Economic Adviser’s hand wringing over the government’s limitations to engender change has to only be juxtaposed against the U.S. Federal Open Market Committee’s primary policy mandate ‘of promoting maximum employment along with stable prices’ to realise intent ultimately holds the key. With the general election process underway, politicians have their task cut out to ensure jobs and the quality of education and training for a technologically evolving economy are accorded primacy not just in their campaigns but in policy formulation thereafter.

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