Indians aren’t protesting against increasing unemployment.

Indians aren’t protesting against increasing unemployment.

Over 1.2 crore Indians join the labour force every year, right? Wrong. This statistic was used so often that it’s become gospel truth. ‘That amount is from NSSO rounds between 2004-05 and 1999-2000. The NSSO rounds between 2011-12 and 2017-18 show the figure is more than two thousand (20 lakh) a year,’ the economist tells me.

Even though the unemployment figure is rising, the amount of people entering the work force is declining. This is represented in the labour force participation rate, which includes those who are currently employed or looking for employment.

This figure is also declining for your childhood.

That’s an interesting paradox. With more unemployment, the amount of job seekers should swell. But that is not the situation.

The folks dropping out of the labour force are, in all likelihood, those people who have given up on finding employment.

This helps us understand why we do not see protests. When they think it could lead to some achievement people today protest. There has to be a sense that they can get what they are asking for. However, the condition of the Indian market is so poor that people are giving up on the hope that they may find work. They’re returning to their homes and villages, living on odd jobs, subsistence farming or living off joint family incomes – things that are usually not listed in surveys.

Protesting the potential

People today protest over violence against women since they think the government can do something about it. Because people think the government can do something to reduce it there is public resentment against increasing onion prices. People protest for change in reserve status to get government jobs because they believe it’s possible.

There are several other reasons, too. The worst hit by rising unemployment seems to be that the landless rural poor, and they are often not ordered enough to protest. The opposition parties ought to be providing them voice but the resistance is the most under-employed. Yet, we see that this reflected in rising demand for work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).

India’s unemployment rate, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), is 7.48 per cent in November 2019, a sharp improvement over the previous month’s figure of 8.45 per cent. More telling is that the labor force participation rate, which is still falling.

While rural unemployment almost doubled between 2013-14 and 2017-18, urban unemployment rose by about 50 percent in precisely the exact same period. Maybe it will take a whole lot more urban unemployment for university childhood to start protesting because they do not see any hope of getting a job — such as the rural landless labor. The fantastic thing is that, according to latest statistics, India’s urban unemployment rate is beginning to fall. But an unemployment rate of over 9 per cent is very high, and could cause widespread social unrest in many parts of the planet.

Collective silence

There has also been a rise in the amount of jobless among youth, in the urban and rural India. These days, in India’s villages, it is possible to meet middle-aged people who’d ask you why they should instruct their children if there are not any jobs. But such questions don’t result in mass anger.

‘ everybody is affected by Inflation,’ says Mahesh Vyas Indian Economy. ‘Out of 100 people, all 100 are influenced directly by food inflation. But a 7 percent unemployment rate implies only seven are unemployed.’

That explains the lack of social angst from unemployment. ‘People also often blame themselves for not getting a job. Maybe I wasn’t good enough, maybe I have bad luck, or the wrong caste, maybe I can’t find a job since I don’t have the right connections,’ says Vyas.

Not having collective angst, the sensation of insurmountable despair — none of the means the unemployed aren’t unhappy.

Looking for trust

Not having demonstration is not the same as being happy, or even satisfied. If the situation is so dire that people have given up on the chance of finding employment, it means they are looking for hope.

Narendra Modi gave them trust in 2014. As prime minister, he failed to live up to these hopes, as far as job creation goes. In 2019, the opposition seemed worse than a failed Modi. They didn’t need to think of a reply: would Rahul Gandhi give us occupations? They added that if anyone might give them tasks, it had been Modi.

In other words, India’s high unemployment might begin reflecting in its politics only when and if there is a new leader that can give people the expectation which s/he knows how to create jobs. Everyone can stand up and say I shall give you tasks, but people will buy it only when the promise appears credible. We are in need of a leader, so, with some history in job development, or any past experience that may convince us that this individual can actually turn around the market.

Is there any leader from any celebration in India now? Can Arvind Kejriwal or Amarinder Singh or K.C.R. Rao or Nitish Kumar or Yogi Adityanath understand how to create mass employment? Nobody, Unfortunately. All they know is state welfare programs.

India’s political course needs to stop waiting for mass protests against unemployment. On the contrary, it needs to begin talking about private sector job creation as a political goal, US-style.

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