Is Mumbai losing its lure as an employment destination for those who live outside? If what the Loksatta, a major Marathi daily, reported on Sunday is an indication of even a possible trend, it could well be.
Here are the details: Government of Maharashtra wanting to staff some offices in its headquarters, Mantralaya, had sought 2,000 hands from the Maharashtra Public Service Commission, the recruiter. Of the 1,795 persons hired, 824 did not want to join. Of the 971 who took up the jobs, 64 quit in a timeframe of two to three months.
Their reason was simple. Mumbai was too expensive to live in even for a livelihood.
In one department, the identity of which was not revealed, of the 135 persons who were given jobs as assistants, 34 declined. For, Mumbai was not a place where they could make ends meet. The newspaper did not cite any sources but the specificity of numbers indicate that someone either familiar with the happenings or authoritative has revealed the details.
High cost of living included outgoes on housing because whether it is rented or owned premises, the space does not come cheap. Lower housing costs means dropping their anchors in distant suburbs and the trade-off on time spent on commutes.
Only when the finer details of the Census 2011 are out – it has only given the numbers of residents at 1.24 crore, drop in the size of the island city and growth in the suburbs up to Mulund, Dahisar and Mankhurd – would we know what the migration trend is.
Being educated and if even from lower economic strata from within rest of Maharashtra, slumming in the shanties of Mumbai – about 65 per cent of the city’s population live there, as per 2001 Census – would be a huge cultural change. They seem to have indicated a desire to get lower wages back home if possible than the trials and tribulations of Mumbai.
Though Maharashtrians from within the state are migrants to the extent of a third of all who flock to the city, mostly for livelihoods and if female, mostly by marriage, quite some live in the slums. And prominently, those who are white-collared in those communities are the ones who grew up there and did well but remained in the informal housing. They did so because they were used to it and it was even convenient for commutes because slums are not always in distant corners. One can find a shanty town even in the posh corners of South Mumbai.
This is the broad picture. However, this sample, though small, is not to be frowned at as being insignificant because the migrants who came a decade or so ago and those who seek to arrive now would find a phenomenal difference: life is unaffordable.
Curiously, the government pay, even for the lower-tier jobs are better than what they got under the scales of the Fifth Pay Commission. Now substantially higher wages are available under the Sixth Pay Commission. If at higher incomes Mumbai is not easy to afford, what of those in the informal sector?
Those not coming in with good formal sector pay packages have little room for finding housing and even the slums now have a rental market with formal lease agreements drawn up on stamped papers and notarised but not registered as an apartment lessee would have to.
Mumbai is a city of migrants and all except the diehard Marathi manoos accept it, especially the migrants themselves who have been seeing the city as the one that gives scope for survival. So far, the non-Marathi migrants have defied the political hostility and bided their time.
Anecdotal evidence and the surges in population of Mumbai’s satellite cities as per the census 2011, does point to the fact that Mumbai is not being preferred. It also means a different struggle: lower wages in preference to Mumbai’s better packets for locally, these smaller cities have less jobs to offer. Mumbai’s variety too is missing.
So what’s up, demographers, economists, urban planners?