Educated and Unemployed? Get in Line.

Unemployment among educated youth is serious cause for concern today. A slow economy, a lack of relevant education, decline in the quality of education – there are several reasons for what’s happening in India today.

A recent report by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) reveals that the situation in the Indian market is bleak. According to it, there was no employment growth in 2017-2018. And a leaked government report, accessed by Business Standard, suggests unemployment is the highest it has been in 45 years. (Although, it’s worth noting that this wasn’t a complete, approved report and these numbers may be revised later.)

Education is supposed to be the way to ensure gainful employment, but clearly that isn’t enough anymore. We need to examine the quality of the education we’re receiving.

Education in India isn’t tailored to meet the need of the technical and corporate world. The focus on rote learning has motivated students to learn for the sole purpose of exams. With high marks the only goal, schools and colleges discourage conceptual, critical thinking, emphasising the need to score over the need to understand the subject matter and its practical application.

This doesn’t just stunt students’ capacity for learning but also leaves them unprepared to deal with the pressures of a workplace. Students aren’t trained to step outside their comfort zones, take independent decisions or learn the art of teamwork.

The gap between our education and real-life skills remains large as ever – and still needs to be bridged. Reforming our education system and teaching techniques should be our primary concern right now.

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Colleges should also introduce measures to help students gain useful work experience through internships, in addition to workshops, conferences and conclaves that will allow students to explore work and entrepreneurship opportunities.

Unemployment numbers can also be blamed on the mechanisation of tasks. Technology has made several human skills redundant, eliminating entire categories of jobs in the process. Small store owners have to compete with online giants like Amazon which can afford to undercut them at every level.

According to a paper published by two economists at the University of Burdwan, more than 11% of Indian graduates and post-graduates are currently jobless. Close to two-thirds of school pass-outs are self-employed, while nearly half of India’s graduates and postgraduates are casual labourers. Educated unemployment is a bigger problem in India than most other countries.

The same study says that this phenomenon can be viewed from a regional angle too with states like Kerala, Orissa, Jharkhand, Assam, Bengal, and Jammu and Kashmir consistently showing higher rates of educated youth unemployment than the national average.

On the other hand, unemployment among educated youth is relatively lower than the national average in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka, according to the authors.

Also read: After Farmers, Students and Youth to March on Parliament Next Month

Staying unemployed for a long period of time makes it even harder to find employment later. Fresh graduates end up with bleak, if any, opportunities after passing out, and if they stay unemployed for a while they risk forgetting the skills they learnt and even fall behind on the latest developments in their field.

Students rely on student loans to fund their higher education and unemployment right after graduation not only demotivates them but also makes it difficult to repay loans. There’s always the fear that the job market won’t offer an adequate return on investment if there is social or political unrest.

In some cases, there are jobs but employers don’t want to hire untrained graduates. A study by Murthy and Paul (2003) indicates that more than 80% of corporate entities report vacancies at the managerial end, of which close to half are hard-to-fill vacancies because of skill-shortages.

Blom and Saiki (2011) present a similar story for engineering and technical graduates. They say that  25% of all employers are not happy with the skill level of their graduate engineers/technologists.

Graduates aren’t equipped with communication, decision-making or problem-solving skills – something our educational system should be held responsible for.

Measures like reservations for the economically backward or tax exemptions for the middle class are only good in theory. In practice, we need jobs and the right education.

Gayatri Sathian is in her second year of pursuing a Bachelor’s in Mass Media at Mithibai College, Mumbai.