Time Bomb of Unemployment in India and China

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Bollywood films in the 1970s highlighted the plight of students who had bachelor and master-level degrees but could not find a job. Today once again Indian and Chinese youth are facing this problem.

According to a recently released special unemployment survey commissioned by the Indian government in 2011-12, the number of unemployed increased to 10.8 million in January 2012 from 9.8 million in January 2010. This special survey rubbished Indian government’s efforts of blaming the global slowdown for the poor job numbers in the 2009-10 survey. To rub salt in wound, the number of unemployed Indians has risen 10.2 percent in the two years between the two surveys

Indian media has reported that the worst hit in India are the engineering graduates. India produces more engineers than the US and China put together, around 1.5 million annually. But today the employers are more concerned with what you can deliver with your skills rather than just hiring you for your degree. Even students from top-tier Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are not getting placed. As the fortunes of the IT sector wane, nearly a third of the fresh engineering graduates may either remain unemployed or be forced to take a lower-level job. To make matters worse the manufacturing sector too is cutting down on hiring. The situation is worse for diploma engineers such as those from ITIs because higher-skilled engineers are ready to work in jobs for which they are over-qualified and underpaid. This malaise is not restricted to just engineers. For example, there is an auto-rickshaw driver in Delhi who resigned from his low-paying job of teacher in a municipal school because he can earn much more by driving an auto rickshaw.

Even students from top-tier Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are not getting placed

Neighbouring China is facing similar problems. According to reports in the New York Times, nearly seven million Chinese set to graduate soon face bleak job prospects. The Chinese government fears this may impact social stability. It has a short-term solution. Schools, government agencies and government-owned enterprises have been told to hire more graduates.

This malaise is not restricted to just engineers. For example, there is an auto-rickshaw driver in Delhi who resigned from his low-paying job of teacher in a municipal school because he can earn much more by driving an auto rickshaw.

Though the number of students pursuing higher education in China has quadrupled over the last decade the nation’s economy remains manufacturing centric and is dominated by blue-collar jobs. Like India, it is a problem of plenty for China. The countries are producing graduates faster than the jobs required to absorb them. This was reflected in a national survey in 2012 which found that 16 percent of 21-25 year-old Chinese students with college degrees were unemployed compared with only 4 percent of those with an elementary school education. The comparatively slower economic growth is still creating adequate blue-collar jobs but white-collar job creation requires faster growth.

Another problem which China faces is that the younger generation is averse to working in private companies and wants to work only in government enterprises. Many of the graduates are opting to pursue a master’s degree in the hope that the employment scenario would improve in the intervening two years. Also, unlike the Indian students who are ready to take a lower-level job, the Chinese students prefer to wait and live off their parents as they are the only child.

The slowdown in the two nations have hit the younger generation hard. What was touted as demographic dividend may turn into a social time bomb as jobs become harder to find. The aspirations of the new generation have soared thanks to TV and internet. They are not only aware of the lifestyle of local well-to-do class but even of those of developed nations. As Occupy Wall Street, Arab Spring and protests in New Delhi against the rape and murder of a girl have shown, people the world-over are losing patience with regimes unable to address issues relating to social and economic inequalities, corruption and safety of the citizens. It is time the governments which always a solution and time for the problems of the corporate sector started focusing on solving problems of the man on the street. Else they will be confined to the dustbin of history.

 

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