More education is not translating into jobs: ILO report

A report by the International Labour Organisation has revealed that the more education an Indian youth has, the less likely they are to get employed.
Representation Image | PTI

The figures have raised alarm across the media. As a large part of India’s population is young – and of working age, these numbers essentially mean the country is unable to make use of the employed youth in the country. Education which was considered the once easiest route to attaining job security and class mobility is now rendered ineffectual to counter poverty with this report as the returns are poor for higher education.

The report by ILO, written with the Institute of Human Development (IHD), titled ‘India Employment Report 2024’ is the third in the series released by the organisation.

India has about 43.3 million students enrolled in the university as of March 2022, however according to reports India’s youth also forms about 83 % of the unemployed population. However, the report details that while there is rising enrolment in higher education in India it is significantly lower than that in developed as well as in middle-income countries. India is also unable to manage its demographic dividend.

Interestingly at the release of the report, the government’s Chief Economic Advisor Anantha Nageswaran recently told the public that the government can’t solve all social and economic problems such as unemployment, he stated that the government has taken steps, but also stated “In the normal world, it is the commercial sector who needs to do the hiring.”

In an article published in The Hindu, Indranil De, a professor at the Institute of Rural Management Anand, has stated that the findings of the report raise a significant question to the benefits of the ‘trickle down effects’ on the poor.

Post pandemic setback

The question of unemployment and overrepresentation of the youth in the informal sector is worrying. The report reveals that most jobs in India remain to be of low quality and informal. They further lack job security and benefits as around 82% of people work in the informal sector, and about 90% have informal jobs. Furthermore, the situation has worsened because since 2019, more people have started work in the informal sector.

However, wages have either stayed the same or gone down conversely as wages for regular workers stayed flat or decreased and self-employed workers earned even less after 2019. The report also highlights the shocking fact that many unskilled workers in agriculture and construction did not even receive the minimum daily wage in 2022.

Interestingly, the report notes that there has been a reverse entry into the agricultural field as the aftermath of the pandemic saw an overhaul where more people started working in agriculture again, and the overall size of the agricultural workforce increased.

The report notes that the female labour market participation rate began to exhibit a more rapid upward trajectory from 2019 onward, especially in rural regions. However, figures about women are not as simple as they appear and women seem to be again receiving the brunt of these economic and financial hurdles. According to the pattern observed in the overall labour market, the report has shown that after 2019, most new jobs are for self-employed workers, and out of these new jobs, a lot of them are for unpaid family workers, which are mostly women.

The report recommends more structural transformation. It states the need for not just the need to increase employment rates but also to tackle labour market inequality by facilitating the rise of good quality employment and to strategise on bringing women into formal employment.


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