Modi@3: Promise of 1 Crore Jobs Turns Out to be Another Jumla
With job market witnessing a slump, unemployment will test Modi’s mettle just as it sealed Vajpayee’s fate in 2004.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi completing three years in office on 26 May, hashtags like #3SaalBemisaal and #3FailedYears have already started trending on Twitter. Social media has obviously emerged as the battleground for both the treasury and Opposition camps to highlight the successes and failures of the BJP government in the last three years.
The government has done well on the economic front – emerging as the fastest growing country in the world, low inflation, improvement in ease of doing business, fast pace in construction of highways, increase in investors’ confidence, surpassing China as FDI destination, etc.
Joblessness in India
However, one persistent problem haunting the government is the issue of unemployment. While India is growing at 7 percent, we are witnessing jobless growth. Unemployment rate has been consistently rising under the Modi government and is currently at 5 percent.
Last year, job growth was only 1.1 percent as compared to the GDP growth of 7 percent. Also, underemployment is pegged at 35 percent of the labour force for more than fifteen years as per the Census 2011 figures.
According to an ILO report, unemployment in India is projected to increase from 17.7 million last year to 17.8 million in 2017 and 18 million next year.
What About Demographic Dividend?
BJP claims the official data doesn’t include jobs in the unorganised sector and also self-employment opportunities, and hence data on unemployment released by the Labour Ministry doesn’t depict the real picture.
This might be correct to a certain extent as the labour department survey actually represents only 5 percent of the workforce of various employers. But the fact remains that in spite of an increasingly young population, the job creation trends are definitely negative, not just in India but globally.
Fifty-one percent of India’s population is in the working age group of 18-35 years. A recent CSDS survey shows 18 percent youth cite unemployment as the biggest problem of India.
Season of Layoffs
This alarming situation, coupled with layoffs in the IT sector due to automation, global slowdown and inability to maintain our cost competitiveness, has aggravated the situation.
While exports have recovered, the recovery is not yet substantial and broad-based. In fact, some analysts have shown that India’s export recovery is broadly in line with global export recovery and not because we have developed additional competitiveness. This means that it is unreasonable as of now to expect one sector to hire in massive numbers the way IT sector did two decades ago. It is clear that the road ahead is tough.
Joblessness among a vast majority of youth is not good for the social fabric of the country. Scarcity of jobs is closely associated with increase in crime in the past.
Why Modi Should be Afraid of Jobless Growth
Modi is at the peak of his popularity after being in power for three years. The BJP is winning election after election and Modi juggernaut seems to be unstoppable. For many, the BJP’s victory in 2019 is a foregone conclusion.
Vajpayee also enjoyed similar kind of goodwill, if not more than Modi, in 2004. India was witnessing an economic revival; sectors like telecom, communication & IT were doing well. Nobody thought that Vajpayee would lose, especially in the wake of the India Shining campaign launched with much fanfare. But he still lost the elections.
That too when the Opposition didn’t even have a PM candidate against him. A post-poll survey highlights that while the respondents felt that conditions under Vajpayee had improved on certain parameters, 23.8 percent respondents were unhappy with his track record on job creation. And this ultimately led to his downfall.
Living Up to the Promise of 1 Crore Jobs
In 2014, Modi had promised 1 crore jobs a year during his election rallies. This is again a jumla like the Rs 15 lakh in each person’s account after black money stashed abroad is brought back. The BJP’s manifesto mentions the word ‘job’ 27 times but seems to have not done enough on the front of job creation. Modi is aware of the importance of employment and has directed that all proposals sent to him must state the number of jobs they can generate.
On the positive side, the large growth in FDI, improved IIP numbers and gradual recovery in the economy could aid the Modi juggernaut. On the other hand, hurdles like the availability of FIIs (foreign institutional investors) in India, slowdown in global economy, substantial increases in productivity and rapid technology changes could hurt job creation in India.
In the meanwhile, the Opposition has begun to pick up this issue over the last few months, #UnemploymentCrisis was trending on Twitter last week. With BJP governments in many states, the party will run out of excuses at some point, if enough jobs are not created.
While the allegations of corruption continue to bedevil the Opposition, it is only a matter of time when voters may choose for an option of ‘more jobs + less corruption’ over ‘no corruption + no jobs’.
Even a small swing of 5 percent in favour of the Opposition will make the election in 2019 very competitive. It is now a race against time for both Modi and the Opposition.
(Amitabh Tiwari and Subhash Chandra are independent political commentators and authors of ‘Battle of Bihar’. They can be reached @politicalbaaba and @schandra_100 respectively. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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