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Lack of jobs is a very real challenge

Like everything else in India, data too has got heavy politicised.

So, if we have one side proclaiming the highest number of terrorists neutralized in a calendar year, the counter narrative is about unprecedented jump in killings of security forces in the strife torn Valley. Given terrorism is now a well entrenched element of the political narrative, the data war here isn't all that exciting.

 Lack of jobs is a very real challenge

Representational image. Thinkstock.

What is catching the election fancy this time is the core economic data (good, bad and ugly). The rather 'boring' GDP debate never made it to the election headlines. Remember Mayawati lost state assembly election in 2012 when her government had bettered the national GDP average.

But that was then!

Lending a new momentum and possibly gravitas to economic statistics this election is the advent of the job or joblessness data. Whether or not the employment issue finally swings votes for the opposition isn't yet clear. But it is without doubt that the core economic issue (employment) in 2019 is trumping fundamental Indices like Sensex, GDP, forex reserves  or even foreign direct investment.

Why is employment a top of the mind issue now that too cutting across target audiences in the country?

Discount the politics of it but it yet remains a core issue having wide ranging socio-economic implications. Borrowing from the management faculty, an issue gains momentum when there is a crisis.

So what is the crisis here?

The crisis is of data - capability to capture it, credibility of available data and admission (of the political class) of its failure to see employment truly as a challenge beyond slogans. Apart from the data conundrum, the employment issue in India is a victim of the narrative war. The politicians are here to blame. They are merely happy quoting the issue to drive political mileage but have not had the patience to do a deep dive for a solution.

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The challenge is for real. It has been made worse by the conscious decision (by the neta and babu combine) to not address it earnestly. This is across regimes.

Economists - purists and non purists - are caught in the definition war unable as they are to truly plot the ever changing contours of formal and informal economy in India. Jobless growth isn't a phenomenon of recency.

The devil isn't as much jobless growth as is the lack of genuine growth and the required level of growth. Ability to capture growth in entirety is as suspect as is the capability of the political class to truly plot poverty numbers in India.

Let us now try decode the core employment challenge - jobs have to be primarily generated by the private sector and private sector in turn will be able to bridge the gap if only it is capital enabled. This does not absolve the government of its responsibility but there is an inherent limitation there.

Capital empowerment at times is a scam in itself given the way loans have been distributed to India Inc. without due diligence, upsetting balance sheet of many banks. Also, there has to be an enabling environment to mount a robust job generating business. If private sector has to lead the job agenda, it is manufacturing that has to be the undisputed pack leader.

A 'Make in India' plank might have been the right template but it has failed to take off as per expectations. One key reason being land pool availability and the cost it entails - remember there is consensus now on giving the land acquisition Bill a quiet burial.

There is a limitation on the services sector opportunity. Look at the enduring turbulence in the aviation sector in India. The much famed telecom sector too is in a job mess.

So, that leaves us with the much reviled 'Pakodanomics'. Not that this is either a truly viable or the only available alternative.

Whether or not you like it, there is a silent revolution happening on the ground but essentially in the informal economy. The sharing economy model manifest in Uber and Ola on one side and a Swiggy Zomatao and Foodpanda on the other and if you extend the canvas to an Amazon and Flipkart to complete the business cycle.

This unprecedented phenomenon is reimagining the labour market in India. The (Mo)mo to (Mo)bile repair job-led entrepreneurship is shaping a new modest but healthy economy. This isn't a replacement for a structured job in a factory or a hotel. But it is an option that exists on the ground.

So, beyond the political rhetoric, what is the out of box idea on table across the political spectrum.


Scan the manifestos and you have tokenism at its best. Job pitch is no longer the BJP manifesto USP while Congress too does not truly show any new path. NYAY may win votes but is essentially a crutch. Politicians of all hues have to brainstorm with the bureaucracy, industry and the civil society leadership to bring about a new employment order in India.

Let there be a employment CMP that the new government can set in motion with clear cut deliverables under stipulated timelines.

No more politics, please! India has a job at hand.

Your guide to the latest election news, analysis, commentary, live updates and schedule for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on firstpost.com/elections. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram or like our Facebook page for updates from all 543 constituencies for the upcoming general elections.

Updated Date: Apr 12, 2019 13:08:38 IST

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