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Monday, November 26, 2018

Employment Generation – A Major Issue of the General Strike on 8-9 January 2019

= Hemalata

‘Where is my job?’ This is the question troubling the minds of hundreds of lakhs of young people across the country. They want concrete answers from the government on just one of the many pre poll promises made by Modi and his BJP in 2014 to attract the young and get their votes. But, the Modi government acted deaf.

What is the employment situation in the country today, when the BJP led government is at the fag end of its tenure?

During the Parliament elections in 2014, BJP promised that, if voted to power, it would provide 2 crore jobs every year. After coming to power the Modi government has embarked upon an illusion creating spree of announcing various programmes – ‘Make in India’, ‘Skill India’, ‘Start Up India’, ‘Digital India’, ‘Pradhan Mantri Rojgar Protsahan Yojana (PMRPY)’ etc and etc, which it claimed would generate employment.

How many jobs did these schemes and programmes really generate? Let us just look at a few newspaper reports that show a highly disturbing situation.

·         1.9 crore appeared for the Railway Recruitment Board exam to fill 62907 posts, mostly of gang men, gatemen, helpers in electrical and mechanical departments. A large number of them were postgraduates.
·         23 lakhs applied for 400 class IV jobs in UP. 50000 of them were graduates
·         25 lakhs appeared for the exam for 6000 class IV jobs in West Bengal; many of them were graduates and post graduates
·         More than 2 lakhs appeared for 1137 posts of police constables in Mumbai. While the basic qualification was 12th standard, 543 were postgraduates and 425 were engineering graduates

Many more similar instances can be cited: engineers driving auto rickshaws, MBAs working as shop attendants, post graduates as servers in restaurants etc. They are not doing these jobs for fun. They are compelled to take up such low paying jobs, despite their high educational qualifications, because they could not find suitable and better jobs.

Most probably, many of the lakhs of educated youth are also selling ‘pakodas’ as suggested by the Prime Minister or running ‘pan shops’ or ‘rearing cows’ as per the advice of the BJP chief minister of Tripura. But obviously they do not share the view of the Prime Minister Modi and the president of his party Amit Shah that such a ‘job’ in which one earns ‘Rs 200 a day’ with no guarantee of work the next day can be called ‘employment’. That is why they wanted a secure job with guaranteed income, even if it does not obviously meet their original aspirations.

Apart from the ground level experience, data from several prestigious institutions show the worsening unemployment situation.

The ‘State of Working India 2018’ report of Azim Premji University states that between 2013 and 2015 total employment actually shrank by 70 lakhs; more recent data from other such eminent agencies show that the absolute decline has continued past 2015. It is reported that 15000 – 20000 people lost their jobs in the telecom sector during the six months period ending 30th September 2018. The staffing firm TeamLease Services estimates that 65000 telecom workers will lose their jobs by 31stMarch 2019.

According to a report by IndiaSpend, fewest organised sector jobs in seven years were created in large companies and factories across eight important industries in the country in 2015. 60% of those with jobs do not find employment for the entire year which indicates widespread underemployment and temporary jobs.

The report pointed out that though India had seen high growth after 1991, less than half the population was fully employed.

Employment in the information technology sector has also dropped drastically in 2017-18 though these companies’ revenue has shown a decent growth. They are increasingly resorting to use of automation and higher technologies. According to some experts, the slowdown in hiring and the reduction in the number of employees, is taking place much faster than anticipated.

According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) unemployment rate in the country increased to 6.9%, the highest in two years. The number of persons employed in October 2018 was 39.7 crore. This was 40.7 crore in October 2017. 90 lakh jobs were lost in 11 months, up to September 2018 (Financial Express 26-9-2018). CMIE data also show that ‘joblessness is rising steadily from 3% of the potential workforce on 30th July 2017 to 8% on 23rd September 2018. This is a 167% increase in joblessness in just 14 months’. A new feature according to the report is the high rate of open unemployment, which is 16% for youth and the higher educated.

The trend of negative employment generation reported by these two non government agencies matches with the reports of the employment-unemployment surveys of Labour ministry that 2014 onwards net employment generation (including job losses owing to closure shut downs etc) has turned negative. There is an absolute decline in employment in the economy despite increase in GDP. The Labour Bureau reports of 2014 – 15 and 2015-16 reveal that hardly 3.7 lakh new jobs were created in the eight most labour intensive sectors including construction and IT, during this period. Of course, most of these jobs were temporary and contractual in nature. How did the BJP government react to these reports? It has stopped publishing of such reports by the Labour Bureau since 2016-17 on the pretext of revising the survey procedure.

But during the same period, at least 15 lakh jobs were lost due to shut downs, closures, lay off etc in industries and services. As majority of workers in industrial establishments are contract, casual/temporary etc, any decision to cut down production due to recession etc immediately results in retrenchment/ termination of services of these workers. Under the present BJP regime led by Modi, such cut down in production has become a regular feature.

The fact is that employment is on a downward trend. As this became clear, the BJP government started an aggressive campaign of false claims to cover its failure. It even involved various government run institutions like the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) in this lie campaign. Led by the Prime Minister himself, ministers in the BJP government are competing with each other in spreading misinformation on employment generation to deceive people.

The Prime Minister claimed that 46 lakh jobs were created in 2017-18. The finance minister in his budget speech claimed that 70 lakh jobs have been created in the same period. Not to be outdone, the EPFO, obviously at the behest of the Labour Ministry, claimed that only in July 2018, 10 lakh new jobs have been generated. The latest is the claim that 85 lakh people have got jobs under the PMRPY.

What is the reality? The PMRPY is in fact a fraudulent project, which was announced by the Prime Minister in August 2016. Under this programme the employers’ contribution to Provident Fund for the new employees in the concerned establishment, will be paid by the government for a period of three years, as an incentive to employment generation. Through this programme, the BJP government under Modi has started a new kind of subsidy to the employers. It is shouldering employers’ statutory obligation on PF contribution, funding it from the national exchequer. The resultant increase in the number of EPF subscribers is shown as ‘employment generation’. The fact is that large numbers of workers who have been working are not covered by EPF despite being eligible for that owing to the failure of the enforcement machinery. Many employers deliberately flout the law. Under the PMRPY of the present BJP government, this failure of the enforcement machinery and deliberate violation of law is being covered up by huge transfer of people’s money to subsidise the employers. On the other this inclusion of already existing workers under EPF is dubiously shown as employment generation. This is how the BJP government under Modi is trying to serve its corporate masters and at the same time cheat the people. It might have disappointed the employment seeking youth. But it has satisfied the profit hungry corporates and big business. India’s ranking on ‘Ease of Doing Business Index’ has gone up from 130 to 100 and now further to 77. It wants to take it to under 50 by pursuing the same neoliberal policies, which have proved to be disastrous for the common people and the future of our youth.

Some of the ministers in the BJP government like Nitin Gadkari, though inadvertently, and a few bureaucrats were compelled to admit the truth. Reacting to the demands for reservation in jobs for the Marathas, Nitin Gadkari, the Surface Transport Minister in the Modi government, shot back asking ‘Where are the jobs?’ The Prime Minister’s claims in Parliament, citing EPFO payroll data, that 10 million jobs were created in the past year alone, were recently punctured by the chief statistician who said ‘EPFO enrolment data never talked about job creation’. 

More than 50% of population in the country is below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. It is estimated that India will have the largest number of working people in the world, around 87 crore, within four years. Our country can achieve great strides in development in all spheres by utilising this huge potential by employing their energies and creativity in the production process, services etc. But under the capitalist system, particularly in its latest and most predatory phase of neoliberalism, which the BJP government under Modi is aggressively pursuing, this cannot happen.

The perception, that economic growth by itself would create jobs, has been proved to be wrong by several reports at the national as well as international levels. The Azim Premji University ‘State of Working India 2018’ report also states that under neoliberalism growth was creating fewer jobs in the country. ‘In the 1970 and 1980s, when GDP growth was around 3-4%, employment growth was around 2% per year. In the 1990s and particularly in the 2000s, GDP growth has accelerated to 7% but employment has slowed to 1% per year or even less’.

Employment situation has worsened under the neoliberal regime with steep fall in permanent jobs and increase in precarious jobs like contract, casual, temporary, fixed term, part time, apprentices, trainees etc. The situation has further worsened after the systemic crisis which started in 2008 and is still continuing. Such crises are integral to the capitalist system and the employers seek to protect their profits by shifting the burden on to the workers. Increasing unemployment is one of the outcomes of this.

The joint trade union movement has been raising the demand for employment generation since long. It has been demanding that the concessions and exemptions being given to the big corporates should be linked to job creation. But the government totally ignored the demand. While every year tax exemptions of around Rs 5 lakh crore are given away to the big corporates, employment generation is becoming negative. Money due to the government is money due to the people. That is being waived off on the pretext that this will create jobs. But this has become a chimera. Net employment generation is turning negative. Whatever employment that is created, is of very poor quality, indecent, with no job security, income security or social security.

Employment generation is one of the 12 points demands raised by the country wide general strike on 8-9 January 2019 called by the joint trade union movement. The two days’ strike is part of the continuous struggle against the anti worker anti people and anti national neoliberal regime, which the BJP led government of Modi is pursuing with increased vigour and brutality.

Not only that. The BJP leading the government and its ideological mentor, the RSS are trying to divert the attention of the people and particularly the energies of the youth into unproductive and destructive channels. The RSS and its many outfits are utilising the frustration among the youth against lack of jobs, against lack of opportunities to develop their talents and creativity etc to create animosities on the basis of religion, caste, region etc, to polarise society for the electoral gains of the BJP. The issues of construction of Ram mandir at Ayodhya, the instigations against Supreme Court judgment allowing entry of women of all ages to the Sabarimala temple, the increasing attacks on minorities and dalits etc being engineered by the RSS and its various outfits are meant to achieve such polarisation of society. They are meant to divide - the working class, youth and society in general, disrupt people’s unity and weaken the fight against the neoliberal policies. The working class must be vigilant against any such attempts, protect its unity and defeat such divisive machinations.

Employment, along with many other issues on which the two days’ strike focuses, is an issue as much of all sections of the people as it is of the workers.

CITU appeals to the entire working class irrespective of their trade union or political affiliations to join the two days’ strike.

CITU also appeals to all toiling people and all sections of society to extend their solidarity and all forms of support to the strike.