With its various mega job melas under the ambitious Ghar Ghar Rozgar Scheme receiving a lukewarm response in the last two years, the Punjab government has finally decided to collect authentic data of unemployed youths in the state.
The government has floated tenders for undertaking a comprehensive IVR (Interactive Voice Response) survey to collect this primary data. But now with the model code of conduct in place in view of the Lok Sabha elections, the government can do it only by July 1.
The state employment guarantee scheme (EGS), on which it rode to power, started on a painfully slow note with a success rate of only 5 per cent. The first mega job fair in August-September 2017 could garner only 19,415 placements (5 per cent). This number rose to 16 per cent during the second set of mega job fairs in February-March 2018 with 11,821 placements. Subsequently, the third set of job fairs in November 2018 achieved a success rate of 21 per cent with 18,672 placements. This number doubled to 40 per cent in February this year with 41,878 placements, 5,777 short listings and 4,370 facilitations for self-employment.
Though the success rate has improved, government sources say inadequate data of jobless youth is the main culprit for the slow progress in doling out jobs. Also, Punjab’s youths do not want to take up jobs paying less than Rs 15,000 a month while the market is only paying between Rs 7,000 and 8,000 a month.
Until fairly recently, the Department of Employment Generation and Training (DEGT) was drawing on data from a report titled ‘Employment Un-employment’ by Ministry of Labour and Employment, GOI (year 2015), the Census Department survey of 2011, and a study done by Industries Department, Punjab through KPMG during the previous SAD-BJP government.
“We derive only indirect inference from these reports. The number of fully employed youth (having employment of more than six months in a year) is 75.37 lakh, marginally employed (having employment of less than six months in a year) is 12.25 lakh, and as many as 14.19 lakh are currently seeking employment. Every year, an additional 2 lakh youth enter the state economy seeking employment,” said an official.
Pre-poll Cong data was a futile exercise
Before the 2017 Assembly elections in Punjab, when Amarinder Singh promised Ghar Ghar Rozgar (one job in every family), the Congress got job aspirants to fill a form each. By the end of the party’s campaign, it had received 14.50 lakh forms.
After the Congress formed the government in state, the party passed on the forms to the Employment Generation department that soon realised that it had been an exercise in futility when its staff called up these phone numbers, and sent SMS asking the youth to register on the department’s portal.
“Most of the phone numbers were either duplicate, or did not exist and plenty of those were in serial numbers,” said a government functionary. In two years, against a database of 14.5 lakh youths, only 3.15 lakh youths have registered on the portal-www.ghargharrozgar.punjab.gov.in. This is after an aggressive advertising campaign, with the government sending SMSes, inserting advertisements in newspapers, TV and Radio, asking youngsters to register.
Too little achieved
Congress promised at least one job in each family. As per the Census India 2011, Punjab has 55,13,071 households and as per government claims 5,76,748 jobs have been generated. In two years, it is a success rate of just 10 per cent. Of the 5.76 lakh jobs, 40,000 are in government departments, 1.71 lakh in private enterprises. The biggest chunk of 3.65 lakh jobs is under self-employment schemes out of which over 3 lakh jobs are under Central government schemes, including Prime Minister Employment Generation Scheme, and Prime Minister Start-Up Yojna. The Apni Gaddi Apna Rozgar Scheme, under which the government has tied up with Ola and Uber for car taxi and bike taxi services, also falls in this category. A number of youths have already accused the government of providing them jobs at flour mills, cycle repair shops, general stores etc. “If a student has studied only upto standard three, how do you expect him to get a job meant for a highly qualified professional? Is it not an achievement that we are providing them with information about openings? We are asking them to start and not sit at home idle. This is the whole mission,” said an official requesting anonymity.
He added they were providing a bandwidth of jobs starting from a store worker to an IT Engineer. “Not everyone is qualified to land a white-collar job. And the government does not have so many jobs to absorb lakhs of youths. We already have 3.50 lakh employees and paying salaries is a task for the fund-crunched state,” he said.
Collecting data and informing aspirants
The government is following an exhaustive exercise to collect data about the openings. Every Deputy Commissioner has been assigned to direct various officials in districts to get their staff to look around, read newspapers and employment news to stake out information about placements. It is then noted down and the report is submitted to the DC. “We encourage them to inform us about every little opening. This is then sent to the registered users on the portal. Walk-ins are encouraged at the mega job fairs where youths can take up jobs. We cull data from wherever possible. We have got in touch with at least 13 government department to inform us about openings. Like in PWD, companies associated with the department need youth for manning toll tax barriers, banks need security guards and so on. We are in touch with schools, degree colleges, private companies and industries on a regular basis,’’ said an official.
Lack of soft skills
While lack of professional degrees is an issue with Punjab youth, the department officials said lack of soft skills is another big issue. Many companies reject Punjabi youths because they do not have soft skills, and they need to go to a finishing school. “We are not only planning to counsel them psychologically to take up small jobs to get a start, but will also start a soft-skills course from August onwards,” said an official.
District bureaus of employment and enterprise
After taking over, the government has done away with obsolete Employment Exchanges and set up modern one-stop outlets called DBEEs in all 22 districts. These DBEEs ensure visits of 40 unemployed youth by taking help from district administration and also provide career and employment options to unemployed youth, who visit on their own. These outlets also provide free internet facility to youth besides organising public outreach but after code of conduct, this has been discontinued.
The government faces the allegation that it has taken over the campus placement drives. It is also accused of spending tax-payers money on organising these drives, which were earlier conducted by institutions.