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AMONG a slew of issues that bedevil our society and scuttle the country’s economic and social progress, unemployment of the educated tops the list. No wonder, the phenomenon of graduate joblessness haunts the nation like never before.
Unemployment is largely viewed as the mainspring behind the frequent political chaos, social strife, mental health issues and even terrorist activities in the country. Covid-19 and the ensuing months-long curbs on social movement have further exacerbated the situation, swelling the ranks of the jobless people, not least the educated ones, across the country. While the popular notion of joblessness typically involves the rural and unschooled population, the reality could not be farther from the truth.
For many years, the country has been seeing a growing number of jobless degree holders. In fact, unemployment rates among graduates are about three times higher than those in the jobless labor force. According to research conducted in 2017-18, more than 8m youth, 20 years or older, hold a bachelor’s degree. Out of these, almost 6m have jobs while 0.97m are unemployed. Given these figures, the number of graduates is much higher than the national average of 5.8%. Nevertheless, the pandemic and economic constraints have pushed the overall unemployment rate up to 9.6%, as per the government’s annual plan for 2020-21. Data from the Economic Survey paints a gloomier picture: Covid-induced lockdowns rendered around 21.71m people either jobless or unable to work at all.
And this leads to a sorry conclusion: the number of jobless educated people could be much higher than anticipated. While the country’s huge informal economy accounts for up to 71.1% jobs outside agriculture, the formal economy has not seen an adequate expansion to accommodate graduates. To make matters worse, the substandard quality of education being imparted in many public and private universities does not prepare students to face the competitive job market. That a large number of professionals like engineers and doctors in the country are unable to find jobs amply validates this fact. Successive governments have tried to deal with this challenge but their obsolete approach has not introduced permanent change. Rather than dole out government jobs, the ruling elites should focus on creating an enabling environment for private companies and businesses to generate jobs for the local population. Simultaneously, the standard of higher education must be upped and the focus should be on producing graduates with competitive market value, rather than produce legions of ‘research papers’ that end up nowhere.