A key takeaway from the study of India’s unemployment trends by Santosh Mehrotra and Jajati Parida (of Jawaharlal Nehru University and Central University of Punjab, respectively) is the fast-rising trend of youth unemployment.
By youth, the study refers to people in the age group of 15 to 29 years of age. The total number of unemployed youth went up marginally from 8.9 million in 2004-05 to 9 million in 2011-12 but, has since shot up to 25.1 million in 2017-18.
What is worse is that the rate of unemployment (in per cent) is higher as one goes up educational attainment (see chart). Moreover, the authors have concluded that youth unemployment has risen for all categories of educational attainment. The states that housed most of these 25 million unemployed youth include Uttar Pradesh (3 mn), Andhra Pradesh (2.2 mn), Tamil Nadu (2.2 mn), Maharashtra (1.9 mn), Bihar (1.9 mn), West Bengal (1.5 mn), Madhya Pradesh (1.3 mn), Karnataka (1.2 mn), Rajasthan (1.2 mn), Odisha (1.1 mn), Gujarat (1 mn) and Kerala (1 mn).
Mehrotra & Parida have based their conclusions on the National Sample Survey Organisation’s Employment-Unemployment Surveys for 2004-05 and 2011-12, and the Periodic Labour Force Survey for 2017-18.
According to Mehrotra, while the total jobs in the agricultural sector have continued to decline massively from 232 million in 2011-12 to 205 million in 2017-18 — and this is a desirable trend — the rate of new job creation in the other sectors of the economy has not been enough to absorb the excess labour. As such, while jobs have gone up in the services sector (from 127 million to 144 million in 2017-18) and the non-manufacturing sector — which includes activities such as construction, mining etc. — from 55 million to 59 million, yet manufacturing, a sector which has the most capacity to soak up excess labour, saw total employment fall — far from growing — from 60 million to 56 million between 2011-12 and 2017-18.
“The slow growth (or scarcity) of non-farm jobs and the rising open unemployment together have resulted in a massive increase of disheartened youth,” state the authors. A reflection of this is that the number of youth (between ages 15 and 29) declaring themselves as “Not in Labour Force, Education, or Training” rose to over 100 million in 2017-18 from 83 million in 2011-12. “These are young people who are disheartened by the state of affairs and are neither looking for jobs, nor are they interested in studying or training themselves,” says Mehrotra.