I’ve been following the elections in India and listening to what are the important issues for the electorate, both in the cities and in the countryside.
One of the issues at top of mind across this vast democracy is unemployment.
Recently Christine Lagarde of the IMF commented on the lack of growth of jobs in India. She highlighted that close to 20 million people had applied for 60,000 vacancies advertised by Indian Railways.
India is not unusual when it comes to job creation in the developing countries across the world. I’ve seen reports that state there is a real crisis when it comes to youth unemployment with around 20 per cent of the youth in developing countries unemployed.
I’d like to share with you the story of one young Indian lady Soniya Gupta who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from a middle-ranking college. She had set her sights on working in the government sector casting her net far and wide. She applied to be a police officer, railway technician, army officer, airport authorities executive, tax collector, and a forest ranger.
After months of trying and failing she decided to move to Gwalior, a city with a population of more than one million, where she hoped more opportunities were available. She spent her days and most of her money in coaching classes meant to help her prepare for the entrance examinations needed to qualify for government employment.
Many, like Soniya, are ensnared by the $45 billion private coaching industry in India giving hope to the young jobseekers. Each month, her family sent her about $200 to pay her rent, food, school fees, books, practice tests, travel to examination centres, and application fees.
Of the 1.3bn people in India half the population is under 27. According to government reports there will be 18.9 million jobless people in 2019, a little more than 18.6m in 2018. India has an unemployment crisis and a recently withheld report stated that unemployment had reached a 45-year record. The withholding of the report led to two top statistics commissioners resigning in protest.
There is a tsunami of young people reaching working age every month. The World Bank predicts that the Indian economy will grow at over 7pc in 2019 but so will joblessness unless the economy creates 8m new jobs annually.
Urban men between 20 and 24 account for 13.5pc of the working-age population but 60pc of the unemployed. Like Bahrain many of the young graduates wish to be employed in the government sector ensuring a secure future and better pay than most private sector jobs.
India’s education system results in many other young graduates being unemployable, with no skills that match the needs of the competitive marketplace. According to an Indian talent assessment firm, more than 80pc of Indian engineers are unemployable in the new knowledge economy.
I’m convinced that politicians and business leaders need to work together to come up with solutions for this employment mismatch leaving millions of young people on the unemployment scrapheap. There is nothing worse than leaving millions of young on this scrapheap feeling unloved and unwanted. History teaches us that building resentment, disenfranchisement and anger amongst the young is so dangerous.
Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at email@example.com