Upset over his failure to get a suitable teaching job, Atanu Mistry, a 30-year-old from West Bengal's South 24 Parganas district, allegedly committed suicide recently.
According to Mistry's family, he had armed himself with a B.Ed degree after completing his post-graduation in English to chase a childhood dream of becoming a teacher. But failing to crack the recruitment examination for primary teachers, he only managed a housekeeping job in a private entity, which shattered his morale.
Again, a 21-year-old engineering graduate, Arpit Ravish, who topped the final semester examination, reportedly took his life by hanging from the ceiling of his residence at Girinagar in south Bengaluru after failing to get campus placement.
There may be many Atanus and Arpits languishing after unsuccessful attempts at finding jobs in the organised sector in the depressed Indian job market despite having higher academic degrees.
Take another telling instance.
In July, authorities at the Malda Medical College and Hospital in West Bengal were in a quandary following a rush of applications from post-graduates, and even Ph.D holders, for a "Group D profile" job that required them to handle bodies in the hospital's morgue. The eligibility for the position was only a Class 8 pass certificate.
Such incidents have not come as a surprise. In fact, government documents have reported a similar trend.
The fifth Annual Employment-Unemployment Survey, 2015-16, shows that with rising education levels, the unemployment rate has also gone up in the age group of 18-29 years.
"The unemployment rate for persons aged 18-29 years and holding a degree in graduation and above was found to be maximum with 18.4 per cent based on the Usual Principal Status Approach at the all-India level," said the Survey report on Youth Employment-Unemployment Scenario, Volume II.
Based on the Usual Principal Status Approach, the unemployment rate for the age group at the all-India level was estimated at 13.2 per cent. For men, the unemployment rate was estimated at 11.3 per cent whereas for women, it was 20 per cent for the same age group, the report said.
The Survey's Volume I also suggested the unemployment rate was estimated to be five per cent at the all-India level. Among the states and Union Territories, the unemployment rate displayed wide variations. Tripura had the highest unemployment rate of 19.7 per cent followed by Sikkim at 18.1 per cent.
On the other hand, Daman and Diu had the lowest unemployment rate of 0.3 per cent followed by Gujarat (0.9 per cent), Karnataka (1.5 per cent), Chhattisgarh (1.9 per cent) and Maharashtra (2.1 per cent). For West Bengal it was 4.9 per cent.
While India is experiencing a demographic dividend due to a youth bulge, many young people are struggling to acquire the right skills sought by employers to successfully navigate the transition from school to work, the Survey said.
Economist Ajitava Raychaudhuri found fault with the process of transition.
"Demographic dividend is only realised when it is transformed into human capital. This (human capital) makes youth employable, provides requisite skills. Unfortunately, the process of such transformation is faulty.
"Ultimately, in the job market, demand must match supply. Adding qualifications would not be helpful unless it creates employability," Raychaudhuri, a Jadavpur University professor, told IANS.
"Skill mapping at the local level is a must. Otherwise, we won't be able to know where the demand (for what kind of work) is and how the supply situation is," he said.
Aloke Mookherjea, a former chairman of CII Eastern Region, who also headed the Skill Committee of the industry lobby, has suggested greater industry-academia synergy in preparing the curriculum.
"Many engineering and management graduates are not employable directly. These freshers, in many cases, are not being taught the way businesses and industries want. Curriculum has to be modified according to the changing scenario. And for this, industry-academia synergy is a must," he told IANS.
Such synergy has now started happening, but it should be a continuous effort rather than one-off, he said, emphasising that youngsters passing out in the general curriculum must have some specialised skill.
He said the manufacturing sector was the key to creating employment and additional industrialisation will not bring jobs in the same proportion.
(Bappaditya Chatterjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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