6 indicators of India’s looming demographic disaster (Special to IANS)

India will need to generate 280 million jobs between now and 2050, the year when the working-age population (15 to 64) will peak, according to a new report, amid indicators that the country’s demographic dividend could be at the cusp of disaster.

Over 22 years of unprecedented economic growth (1991 to 2013), less than half the Indians who sought jobs got them, 140 million of 300 million, according to a new United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report.

“In China, the number of jobs grew from 628 million to 772 million between 1991 and 2013, an increase of 144 million, but the working-age population increased by 241 million,” the report said. “A wider gap in India than China suggests a more limited capacity to generate employment-a serious challenge given the continued expansion of the workforce in India over the next 35 years.”

With fears that India is experiencing jobless growth and skepticism abounding that the country may not be able to cash in on its “demographic bonus”, the world’s largest working-age population-869 million by 2020-because of limited progress on health, education and job skills, we identified five warning signs:

1. Organised sector, offering 10 perccent of employment and steadiest jobs, slows

Employment shrank over two quarters of four in 2015, the first time since the 2008 global financial crisis, according to the latest data from the Labour Bureau’s Quarterly Employment Survey.

The first quarter, January to March 2015, added 64,000 jobs, while the third quarter, July to September, added 134,000 jobs in eight sectors that the Bureau surveys on “changes in employment” (not existing jobs): Textiles (apparels), leather, metals, automobile, gems and jewellery, transport, IT/BPO and handloom/power loom.

However, in the second quarter, April to June, 2015, 43,000 jobs were lost, and in the last quarter of the year, October to December, 20,000 jobs were lost. These jobs were to be in industries that comprise Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make in India programme, a manufacturing expansion meant to offer jobs to the millions moving out of agriculture.

The employment generated per quarter slowed since after the relatively short-lived 2008 financial crisis, indicating that the current global slowdown is steadier, as IndiaSpend reported earlier.

2. Up to 93 percent of jobs in unorganised, insecure informal sector by 2017

The informal sector accounted for 90 percent of jobs through the period 2004-05 to 2011-12, said the Economic Survey 2015-16. This is going to increase marginally to 92-93 perceent in 2017, according to a report by the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS).

The accelerated growth of the Indian economy over the past two decades is accompanied by increasing informalisation, notes the Report of the Committee on Unorganised Sector Statistics by the National Statistical Commission.

3. As farming recedes, menial rural labour grows 34 perccent; agriculture stays India’s largest employer

From 2001 to 2011, the number of farmers fell seven percent, from 127.6 million to 118.6 million. Over the same period, agricultural labourers increased 34%, from 107.5 million to 144.3 million, as IndiaSpend reported.

Agricultural growth nosedived over the last two years, with three, and possibly four (the data for January to March 2016 are not yet out), quarters registering a contraction.

Rural wages are growing at a much slower pace compared to the initial years of India’s rural jobs programme, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA), the wages of which were down at 2005 levels in 2015, as IndiaSpend reported.

The construction sector – building roads, bridges and ports – is rapidly becoming India’s fastest-growing employment destination. More specialised sectors of the economy cannot absorb those leaving farms because they do not possess the skills needed. Modi’s Skill India initiative aims to train 400 million Indians over the next six years-that’s a million every week. In 2014, as we reported, no more than seven million were trained; fewer than five of Indians have ever received formal skills training.

4. Under-employment: 60 percent working people can’t find a steady job

Many Indians who report themselves as ’employed’ do not get year-round work, or may have jobs lagging their abilities and expectations, said the Fourth Annual Report on Employment and Unemployment 2014.

Only 60.5 percent of the working population (above 15 years) was able to find work through the year.

Underemployment affects youth the most. Of 100 persons aged above 30, only two persons report being fully unemployed, while in the 18-29 age group, 13 in 100 are unemployed, noted the survey.

Education only appears to increase the prospect of unemployment.

5. As industrial growth slows, company jobs recede, jobs per company fall

The growth of eight core industries-coal, oil, oil products, gas, electricity, fertiliser, steel and cement-is now the lowest it has been over the last ten years.

Industrial growth of the last decade (represented here by the year-on-year growth in the Index of Industrial Production) shows a slump during the 2008 crisis; it recovers and again goes south till 2015-16.

The number of companies registered every year is – after a peak in 2012 – down to 2008 levels, an indication of business uncertainty.

In 2014, as many as 70,043 companies were registered in India, marginally less than 70,513 in 2008.

Fewer than 2,000 companies were registered in April 2016, the first month of the new financial year, 2016-17, according to ministry data. In comparison, 6,000 companies were registered monthly, on an average, during the last decade.

Large corporations are important to India’s economy, RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan said in February, but many are struggling to repay loans and grow, potentially sparking a circle of low growth, low bank credit, job cuts, low output and low growth.

So, a paradox unfolds, with many young Indians, many with substandard education, unable to find jobs commensurate with their education, while industry endures a shortage of skilled labour.

(In arrangement with IndiaSpend.org, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform, with which Abhishek Waghmare is an analyst. The views expressed are those of IndiaSpend. The author can be contacted at respond@indiaspend.org)



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