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OPINION | Where are the Jobs, Mr. Jaitley?

The government has not lifted a finger when it comes to job creation. But in 2019, the people of India are going to lift their fingers and vote.

Derek O'Brien |

Updated:February 3, 2018, 12:34 PM IST
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OPINION | Where are the Jobs, Mr. Jaitley?
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley attends a news conference sharing details about the recapitalisation of public sector banks in New Delhi on January 24, 2018. (Reuters)
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In his Budget speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said job creation is at the core of the BJP-led government’s policy-making. This is not new. In 2014, the BJP came to power promising 10 million jobs a year. Three-and-a-half years down the line, the job situation has moved from worrying to alarming. There is no sign of jobs.

Six of 10 unemployed graduates and postgraduates complain of absence of jobs matching their education, skills and experience. Ninety percent of three million Indians trained under the government’s Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana are without jobs.

Just two in every 100 persons registered on the National Career Services Portal can get jobs. Make in India, Digital India, Start-Up India and the Smart Cities project were aimed at creating jobs for India’s youth. But 80 percent of start-ups registered in 2016 shut down in 2017.

Those who do find employment are just a shade luckier. Most are without a regular, full-time job. Only 60 percent of the workforce managed to find work for a full year, while 35 percent found work for between six and 11 months.

These are Labour Bureau statistics. The MSME sector is a big job creator in our country. The West Bengal government recognises the value of the MSME sector. Among all the states of India, Bengal’s credit flow to MSMEs is at number one. This is not matched by the Union government. It has put the MSME sector in limbo by promoting big industrialists and coming up with that crazy demonetisation jumla. It crippled MSMEs.

The government claims that the opening of seven million new EPF and retirement accounts in the past one year, and the doubling of road construction and rail-track laying, are indicators of job creation. This is rhetoric, not data.

Have new EPF accounts been opened or have those who already had work but didn’t have these accounts opened them now? The formalisation of the financial sector is welcome — but it is not the same as creation of formal sector jobs.

There is also the issue of the jobs of the future — and the skilling schemes of the past. By 2022 — just three years after the BJP government will be voted out — 37 percent of the Indian workforce would be in jobs demanding radically different skill sets. Nine percent will be in jobs that simply do not exist today.

The World Bank predicts that automation threatens 69 percent of jobs in India. This also creates opportunities to design a whole new employment landscape for the 375 million young people who need to find new jobs by 2030 as per McKinsey.

What is the government doing? It is training our workforce in skills that are meant for outdated jobs, throwing in an average of only 46 days of employment as part of MGNREGS — and talking big about job creation. This is the demographic nightmare it will leave behind as its legacy.

Of course, the leaders of the government insist that “lies are being spread about employment”. In their Potemkin world, Smart Cities have already been built and factories are humming to full employment.

In reality, the government has not lifted a finger when it comes to job creation. But in 2019, the people of India are going to lift their fingers and vote. And vote out.

We know who’ll be minus a job then.

(The author is Trinamool Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP. Views are personal.)

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| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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