Can India create jobs on a large scale?

The entire burden of generating jobs can’t be on the government or industry; job-seekers should take responsibility to not only equip themselves with the necessary skills

The entire burden of generating jobs can’t be on the government or industry; job-seekers should take responsibility to not only equip themselves with the necessary skills
The entire burden of generating jobs can’t be on the government or industry; job-seekers should take responsibility to not only equip themselves with the necessary skills

A look at the constraints in massive job creation that are needed

The Indian government was criticized till 2020 for jobless growth. Covid and Ukraine war have made things worse, adding to joblessness, not just in India but across the world.

Regardless of what happens to the rest of the world, we need jobs very quickly, especially given our large and growing population. In fact, job creation and the overall sense of well-being and happiness of the people are more important and urgent than GDP growth. Even in terms of politics, it makes sense.

The Modi government has been investing in infrastructure projects in the last 8 years, helping in direct and indirect job creation to a significant extent. Infrastructure will also help lift up the economy and enhance employment opportunities significantly in the coming years.

Let’s look at the constraints in massive job creation that are needed.

The maximum demand is for government jobs as they are secure and pensionable. Central and state governments have not been using technology adequately, and so mostly low-level mundane jobs are being created, mainly to pander to vote banks, but their numbers also can’t be large. If the governments become efficient, the scope for government jobs will shrink further.

States like Kerala and West Bengal have been filling government departments with their own party cadres to protect their parties’ long-term interests, despite the unfairness and damage to the states’ economies. The new contributory pension policy replacing the old government-funded policy is the admission that all this is unsustainable. Political parties have created a culture of laziness in the people who now want cushy jobs without accountability.

Agriculture and animal husbandry are major sources of employment currently, but the number of these jobs should come down to make rural employment, including self-employment, viable. Rural youth who come to cities in search of jobs just about manage to eke out a living.

The industry is a good bet for job creation, but India has not been very competitive in this segment, despite government initiatives. Also, the Industry will only employ based on need and is not answerable to anyone for generating employment.

The world is moving towards high tech and high productivity, and so broadly, low employment in the industry is increasingly becoming a reality. Sure enough, new jobs are (and will be) created by technology, but mostly by destroying many more old jobs. If e-commerce creates jobs, it takes away jobs and entrepreneurship in Mom and Pop stores. If automation, AI, and drones create new jobs, they take away more service sector jobs like programmers, back office assistants, and delivery boys. Any amount of FDI or local investment will create only a limited number of jobs. Reversal of this trend is impossible.

Jobs in the service sector are a good bet. We may see higher salaries in high-tech manufacturing and services sectors, but they will be very low compared to our massive numbers of unemployed. Most jobs in both manufacturing and services are not high paying anyway, though better than from agriculture.

Against this backdrop, how will the youth have enough jobs henceforth? The task is not easy.

The entire burden of generating jobs can’t be on the government or industry; job-seekers should take responsibility to not only equip themselves with necessary skills but also to create their own jobs, to an extent.

Opposition parties want the governments to create high-paying jobs, but as we’ve just discussed, these are difficult to create on any reasonable scale. Critics speak derisively about pakoda making/ selling jobs. The middle classes and elites think only about high-paying jobs. Surely such jobs are very necessary to boost the economy and make our nation comparable to the developed ones.

But there can’t be crores of such high-paying jobs. At least, we can try to create jobs that will get the poor started with subsistence plus levels of income. The more motivated and competent ones will work their way up for better jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities.

But there is a basic problem with our human resources. Most of the unemployed, including many well-qualified, are not employable, even in lower-level jobs. I mean, they can’t relate to any work given to them, they can’t connect their education (be it math, science, or whatever) to their work, they don’t have the right attitude and commitment to work, in general, and their role, in particular.

If only we could train our students, either in school and college or at least before employment, in the above skills and more, like in leadership, in being able to see the big picture in typical work situations, discharge their work effectively and efficiently, develop in them a sense of proportions, train them to face criticism or failure positively, train them to know when something goes wrong and know how to correct them, train them to organize their thoughts and communicate effectively, orally and in writing, train them to handle their own personal lives including money matters properly, train them to work effectively in teams, set their own value systems and live by them, etc., they will not only have an academic qualification but also will be employable.

As we can see, these skills may not be related to any specific job but will help freshers in every kind of job, to a significant extent. Most employers will be able to easily impart job-related skills on the job, to freshers who are the right raw material, already trained to be employable. This is what employers are looking for.

Regardless of employment generation, if just this is done by the governments, it will help in employment of our youth in many ways.

This will help in many cases where employers are unable to fill vacancies for want of employable candidates.

The mere availability of such candidates in the job market in large numbers will help many potential investors to invest, start new businesses/ industries, and employ them. Investment doesn’t happen in many segments now because employable candidates are not available.

Many of them will become self-employed, in rural and urban areas, having gained self-esteem and basic levels of competence while acquitting these skills.

Some of these employable-trained will get jobs abroad, on the basis of their qualifications.

Some of them will gain confidence and acquire higher educational and professional qualifications and find higher levels of jobs.

In the case of products and services, when supply exceeds demand, the products and services can’t create additional demand. In the case of human resources, when supply exceeds demand, if the human resources are employable, they can create new demand in all the ways as above.

One thing the government can do immediately to generate substantial additional employment is by making most of our people employable, at schools, colleges, and before first employment, by imparting generic basic employability skills on a massive scale through the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship. This should be in addition to the industry/ profession-related skill development training programs it is already conducting through National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC). Models for such training are available, mostly in the private sector.

Generic skill development is a force multiplier in employment generation.

We need a National Task Force for employment generation.

Note:
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

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An Engineer-entrepreneur and Africa Business Consultant, Ganesan has many suggestions for the Government and sees the need for the Govt to tap the ideas of its people to perform to its potential.

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