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Telling Numbers: Young India’s first concern is lack of jobs, first choice is in govt

In this series, we share some of the insights from our studies: the Youth Study 2016 and the National Election Surveys 2019 (NES Pre-poll & Post-poll 2019).

Written by Manjesh Rana | New Delhi |
Updated: March 11, 2021 12:23:52 pm
Job seekers fill in registration forms at a job mela at Thyagaraj Stadium, in New Delhi, Jan 2019. (Express Photo: Tashi Tobgyal)

The median age of the Indian population— the age that divides the population into two equal halves — was 28.4 in 2020. While this created the image of a “younger” population and a productive workforce, the grim side is their expectations of the state — especially access to quality education, and job opportunities.

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In this series, we share some of the insights from our studies: the Youth Study 2016 and the National Election Surveys 2019 (NES Pre-poll & Post-poll 2019).

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What is the topmost concern for young Indians?

In the Youth Study 2016, when asked about the biggest problem in India, one-fifth (19%) of the youth identified it as the topmost concern. After three years, in the NES Pre-poll 2019, an even higher proportion — 25% — of young Indians reported jobs as the most important issue while voting in the Lok Sabha elections. This proportion was higher in the central (29%) and northern (34%) parts of the country, mostly comprising Hindi-speaking states, than in the south (16%). The states of Delhi (50%), Telangana (40%), Haryana (39%) and Punjab (36%) stood out.

The NES Pre-poll 2019 had two more questions, highlighting the seriousness of this issue. First, asked if employment opportunities had increased or decreased during the last 5 years of NDA rule at the Centre, 45% said they had decreased, and 28% said they had increased. Second, asked if it had become more difficult or less difficult to find a new job during the last 3-4 years, half (49%) said it had become even more difficult (Figures 1 & 2).

The picture was quite similar across villages (49%), towns (49%), and cities (51%), indicating this was a major concern throughout India. This points to a dismal state of employment in India, with the unemployment rate rising further due to Covid-19 and the lockdown.

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How much do they worry about jobs?

In varying degrees, almost nine in ten (85%) in the Youth Study 2016 reported being worried about their jobs or occupations. While half the respondents claimed to be worrying quite a lot, one in four reported being somewhat worried (Figure 3).

Among those who reported worrying a lot, there was a considerable gap (about 10 percentage points) between young men and women, and between urban youth and rural youth — young men, and those living in cities, were more worried (Figure 4).

This argument was corroborated by responses to a similar question in NES Post-poll 2019 — “How serious is the problem of joblessness for people like you?” More than three-fifths (62%) said it was a very serious problem and another one-fourth (25%) said it was a somewhat serious issue.

Jobs and the young Indian Youth Study 2016

Government jobs, private jobs, or their own business/profession?

While the state may not have enough jobs, more and more youngsters are preparing for government exams. In the Youth Study 2016, asked to choose from among a government job, a private job, or setting up their own business/profession, almost two in every three chose government jobs, with the middle-class and those from rural parts of India slightly more inclined towards these. Private jobs were preferred by less than one in ten (Figures 5 & 6).

Having a disproportionate young population means the Indian economy must support this section, which demands quality education and is not yet ready to work. Simultaneously, it must create jobs for those prepared to join the workforce. In the absence of jobs, some of these students would have no other option but to continue their studies for a few more years.

The median age in India is projected to increase to 38 by 2050, close to where more developed countries stand today. This is the time when the state needs to maximise its efforts, ensuring the Indian youth develop the necessary skills and then providing them with a stage to explore their potential.

In the Youth Study 2016, a quarter of youth (24%) self-reported as “students”. While you read this article, a large chunk of these students might be filling up yet another application form for a government job, or scrolling through job portals and classifieds.

***

The Youth Study 2016 was conducted by Lokniti-CSDS-KAS in April-May 2016 among 6,122 young people aged between 15-34, across 19 Indian states. The NES Pre-poll 2019 was conducted by Lokniti-CSDS in March 2019 among 10,010 people above 18, across 19 states. The NES Post-poll 2019 was conducted by Lokniti-CSDS in April-May 2019 among 24,235 people above 18, across 26 states.

From these studies, only the responses of young people between 18-34 (4,950 in Youth Study 2016; 3,648 in NES Pre-poll 2019; 8,471 in NES Post-poll 2019) are analysed for the purpose of comparison.

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