The unemployment problem is worsening. CMIE, a leading business information company, recently reported that 11 million jobs got lost in 2018, a finding to which the powers that be have not even bothered to respond. This is curious to say the least, for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the run-up to the 2014 election, had promised to create crores of jobs during his tenure.
“India’s unemployment rate shot up to 7.4 percent in December 2018. This is the highest unemployment rate we’ve seen in 15 months. The rate has increased sharply from the 6.6 percent clocked in November,” CMIE said. Perhaps CMIE—being a private entity and thus lacking the resources of the government’s statistics establishment—is unable to get the big picture; perhaps its findings are wide of the mark. But then what is the real picture?
At least, the government doesn’t come up with credible facts and figures. Often, when confronted, official functionaries hide behind not statistics but lack of statistics. About three years ago, when some depressing unemployment number had inconvenienced the government, I had discussed the subject with a top government adviser. He told me something to the effect, “The claims made about jobless growth are groundless because there are no data on employment.”
I asked him, “How can we take the government’s claims of providing jobs to crores of people seriously when it can’t even provide data on employment, let alone employment itself?” There was no answer to this question.
There is still no answer. What the people of India get—or, to be precise, journalists get—are quotes from the men who matter. So, on December 28, interacting with BJP workers in Karnataka through video conferencing in Bengaluru, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that lakhs of regular jobs were being created every year in infrastructure and development projects.
How many lakhs? In which sectors? No answers, nothing specific. What one gets, what one always gets, is rhetoric: “Today’s youth wants to be job creators, not just job seekers. They want someone to believe in them. Today, we have three lakh youth common service centers in the country.”
The Prime Minister went on to claim: “In terms of excellence, India has the second largest startup ecosystem in the world. With this comprehensive 4E approach we are progressing.”
4Es are education, employment, entrepreneurship, and excellence. By the way, there are also 3Ts—tradition, talent, and trade—that, he claims, would boost tourism in India. That’s correct, Mr. Prime Minister, but where are the jobs?
Then there is the master of glibness, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. A few days ago, he was promoting the government’s electric mobility programme. Electric vehicles, he claimed, would give a fillip to manufacturing and generate employment, apart from cutting down emissions.
In a nutshell, India has the world’s second largest startup ecosystem, 4Es, 3Ts, the electric mobility programme, a zillion other schemes, and words, words, words, and more words. But no jobs, not even statistics on jobs.