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In search of a paycheck

The lacklustre Directorate of Employment is hardly a place that can bring hope to the job seekers who knock at its doors

On a long stretch of road is a building with all the vibes of a sarkari daftar. Its greying, crumbling walls giving out little hope that it can ensure job security. This is the Directorate of Employment in the Capital.

And this is where 25-year-old Dev Dutt came in search for an answer — an end to the misery of being jobless for more than two months. He could have spared himself the trouble, for since 2009 all those seeking help for employment through the government department are expected to  log into its portal and apply. The catch is, the website has been dysfunctional for the past two months at least.

So first, Dutt went from his home in Noida to the employment exchange at Connaught Place, where he was redirected to the head office. His sad smile tells of the rejections he has faced already. He studied till 10th grade, after which he took a course to become a two-wheeler technician — a skill he has been able to practise since 2003.

His father ran a repair shop which they lost to the sealing drive in the city. “My grandfather, who is now retired, got his job decades ago from the job centre; he asked me to do the same”. But his next stop at the Pusa Road office was infructuous.

A man at the entrance asked him to go online and register on a website which will not function at least for 15 more days. The reason given for this gap is that they are changing from the National Informatics Centre service provider to a cloud-based one.

Vivekananda Sharma, an SREO with the directorate of employment, says that presently they have about 12 lakh people registered on their portal, whereas India’s unemployment figures are in the region of 31 million. Whether they all continue to be jobseekers, he does not know. Most of the people approaching them for help are those who have only studied upto Class 8-12, Sharma says. Apparently, the more qualified lot “usually know about various other sources to apply to”.

Dearth of jobs

While many may know how to apply, the question remains: Are there enough jobs for all those seeking one?

The National Sample Survey Office’s (NSSO’s) latest jobs survey shows that unemployment rate in India was at a 45-year-high of 6.1% in 2017-18. This was the year after the government demonetised high-value currency notes in November 2016.

It is believed that the report has been kept back as the government does not want to show the detrimental effects on jobs after the shock demonetisation. This unemployment report would affect how the current government is seen, one which had promised 10 crore new jobs every year under the then Prime Minister hopeful Narendra Modi.

PC Mohanan, the acting chairperson of the National Statistical Commission and JV Meenakshi, another member of the organisation resigned from their posts, alleging that the government is sitting on the publication of the figures.

While the Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar was quick to defend the office, saying the report was only a draft one, Mohanan denied the same.

Now what we have in our hands, from the report which was leaked to Business Standard, is that unemployment is higher in urban areas at 7.8 per cent as compared to 5.3 per cent in rural areas of the country.

As much as half of India’s working-age population (15 years and above), for the first time, is not contributing to any economic activity, according to the report. The labour force participation rate (LFPR) — the share of the population who are either working or available for work — stood at 49.8% in 2017-18, falling sharply from 55.9% in 2011-12. More than a decade ago, in 2004-05, 63.7 per cent of the population was part of the labour force.

Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant also denied the report’s findings and said that the country was creating adequate number of jobs for new entrants but perhaps “not creating high quality jobs”.

The Modi government, in the past, has projected no worrying trends in the job market. Last year in April, it said that 3.11 million jobs were added between September 2017 and February 2018 based on employee payroll data.

While the numbers may seem large, they are not large enough. The World Bank estimates that India needs to generate at least 8.1 million jobs every year to maintain its employment rate.

It also mentioned how every month, the working age increased by 1.3 million people.

So what will the next step be?

Going to the fair is one way to find a job

The Delhi government’s mega job fair had 26,000 people in attendance this year, a significantly lower footfall than the first one in 2015 which had 40,000 visitors.

In that event, 60 companies had participated and 10,000 persons went through the next step and were interviewed, out of which 7,600 individuals were recruited by the companies. Many were drafted for security services, hospitality and BPOs.

This year, 5,600 were recruited from those who have studied till Class 10 to MBA holders, says Vivekanda Sharma of the Directorate of Employment.

The new trend in this event, Sharma says, was of more women being recruited. He pointed at BPOs and Patanjali, which hired women for its stores.

Another job fair is being planned in the Capital for November or December this year.

While we sat in his office, a call was made by a potential recruiter who had 500 vacancies for those having studied from 10th to 12th grade. They offered to train the potential employees and pay them a stipend.

When asked how they verify the veracity of the organisation, Sharma said they “google” and take undertakings from the companies.

According to Sharma, there’s also a central government funded career counselling centre set to be launched by March this year in RK Puram, Delhi. This space will also work as an employment centre.