The youth of today are unsure of what the future has in store for them. With the passing of each single day the avenues of employment are shrinking. The spectre of unemployment is haunting them and the bleakness that the future holds is staring them in their faces. They are in despair. And, this, despite learning newer skills and equipping themselves to be eligible for gainful employment. There is also widespread under-employment where highly qualified persons are doing low end jobs. And it is not the youth alone. People in their middle ages, already employed, are suddenly finding themselves thrown out onto the streets, deprived of employment as corporates seek to replace them with low wage casual employees. Those in employment live in the constant fear of facing the sack any moment. Security of tenure, pension are all passé now. Contracts and casualisation are the buzz words.
Such are the vagaries of the neo-liberal policies pursued by successive governments at the centre, over the years. The pursuit of this reckless liberalisation-privatisation drive has led to a shrinkage in the already low levels of employment avenues available in the country. The data released by the National Sample Survey (66th round) paint a very gloomy picture. The NSS data reveals that the annual rate of employment growth fell from a already low level of 2.7 per cent in the five year period 2000-05 to a measly 0.8 per cent in 2005-10 period. It also reveals that growth of employment in the non-agricultural sector declined from 4.65 per cent during 2000-2005 to 2.53 per cent during 2005-2010. This despite the fact that during 2005-2010 period, GDP growth, on an average, was above 8 per cent.
All this, while we are told that high GDP growth rates, mean higher employment rates. That this growth is no more “jobless” growth but is in fact “jobloss” growth, needs no emphasis. The failure of the flagship MNREGA, under which 100 days of work is guaranteed, to provide work for more than 40 to 50 days per household in a year, speaks volumes of the situation in which we are in today.
The very high levels of unemployment rates for the youth in the 15 to 29 years age group are alarming and a cause of concern. For rural young males it was 10.9 per cent and for rural young females, 12 per cent. The figures in urban areas are equally disturbing, at 10.5 per cent for young men and as high as 18.9 per cent for young women. In both the rural and urban areas, unemployment rate among the educated (secondary and above) persons of 15 years old and above was higher than those whose education level was lower than secondary school.
The number of job seekers registered with the 966 employment exchanges across the country stood at a staggering 3.81 crore at the end of 2009. Out of these 2.9 crore were educated jobseekers and 90 lakh uneducated jobseekers. This, despite the fact that large numbers of unemployed do not register themselves at the Government employment exchanges, having lost faith in the ability of these exchanges in providing them gainful employment. Not without ground.
Despite this bleak scenario, the Congress-led UPA government, in a decision that will have far reaching consequences and will lead to a further escalation in the ever growing number of unemployed in the country, notified to allow FDI in multi brand retail. The retail sector in the country, employs over four crore people. Their jobs are at stake. This executive order was challenged in Parliament. The overwhelming majority of MPs and parties voiced their strong opposition to this anti-national move. Even some of its own allies in the UPA government voiced concerns. Outside Parliament also there was strong opposition from traders, workers engaged in this sector, political parties and the general public at large. But despite this strong and wide spread resistance the government adamantly went ahead with the move to allow FDI in multi-brand retail. This will have disastrous consequences.
In country after country, experience shows and repudiates the fallacy of the claims made by the government that FDI in retail would generate employment and benefit the farmers. It has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that big corporate retailers like Wal-Mart, Tesco, Carrefour etc would displace large numbers of people from their jobs and also adversely affect the farmers.
Side by side we also see the spectacle of a government which on the one hand refuses to allot surplus land and waste land to the landless, shamelessly on the other hand, is handing over huge tracts of land to big companies and multinational corporations, in the name of development. Such reckless development, as all of us know, is displacing lakhs of people from the lands they have been cultivating since long, rendering them without jobs and livelihood. Rural distress has led to nearly three lakh farmers committing suicide in the country since 1995.
The callous and insensitive approach of the government to the issue of galloping unemployment is also revealed by the fact that it has continued with the virtual ban on recruitment in central government establishments and the public sector units under it. Temporary and contract employment have become the order of the day in its efforts to cut salary bills. At the same time it has no qualms in giving concession after concession to the corporate sector. In budget after budget the government has doled out huge concessions to them in the name of incentives. During the last five years, on an average the government has forgone taxes and duties to an astounding Rs. 5 lakh crores per year. But when it comes to giving subsidies to the poor, lifting the ban on recruitment or increasing the amount of unemployment allowance, it has a resource crunch!
In sector after sector, in department after department, posts are allowed to remain vacant and are subsequently abolished. There are more than 10 lakh vacancies lying unfilled in various central government departments. The unfilled vacancies in the police and defence forces alone is over 7 lakhs.
There are a huge number of vacancies in the Railways. Over 2.2 lakh vacancies existed in the Group C and erstwhile Group D posts in the Railways as on 1st April 2011. Catering, cleaning of trains and platforms, and various other such services have been privatized in the railways. And this is happening with the Indian Railways, which also happens to be the largest employer in the country.
These apart, there are a huge number of vacancies for skilled professionals such as teachers, doctors, scientists, statisticians, economists etc. Teachers are employed on contract basis and are paid a pittance. Half of these vacancies belong to the reserved categories of SC, ST, OBC and the disabled.
Since the Government which is the main employer in the organized sector refuses to take measures to expand employment opportunities, it is hardly surprising that the total organized sector employment in India was only 2.87 crore in 2010, out of a total workforce of over 46 crore (i.e. around 6%). Employment in the organized sector, public and private combined, has grown by only 2.3 per cent in 2009 and 1.9 per cent in 2010.
This reveals the real nature of India’s much proclaimed growth story. An utterly lopsided pattern of growth has meant that while agriculture’s share in GDP has declined to just 15 per cent today, the workforce dependent on agriculture still remains as high as 52 per cent. Growth in the services and industrial sectors is failing to generate adequate jobs to absorb surplus workforce from agriculture. Such jobless growth is also creating a growing divide between the urban and the rural areas and widening socio-economic inequalities in an unprecedented manner.
It is against this backdrop that the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is undertaking a countrywide campaign on some of the urgent issues before the country and the people, including the issue of unemployment. Jathas from four different corners of the country, Amritsar in the North, Kanyakumari in the South, Mumbai in the West and Kolkata in the East are being taken out which will converge in Delhi on March 19. A huge protest meeting will be held in Delhi on that day demanding a reversal of such policies that are leading to growing unemployment and insecurity and distress among the youth and putting in place an alternate set of policies.
The CPI(M) demands:
1.) The lifting of the ban on recruitment in different Central and State Government departments and PSEs; and end to the policy of abolition of vacant posts and filling up of all vacancies
2.) Providing unemployment allowance to the registered unemployed; Modernisation of employment exchanges
3.) Expanding the scope of the MGNREGA to all individuals (not only to households) and enhancing the cap of 100 days
4.) Initiation of an Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme at minimum wages with a minimum of one-third jobs reserved for women
5.) Enhancing financial support for self-employment schemes, SHGs and small enterprises
6.) Releasing employment data along with quarterly GDP estimates