Modi kept his job, Indians worry about theirs

Published May 26, 2019, 11:51 AM

by Francine Ciasico

By Agence France-Presse 

Asad Ahmed, one of about 1.2 million young Indians entering the cutthroat job market each month, diligently scribbles notes at a computer class in New Delhi.

The 60 students at the government-sponsored 'skill development' classes are all from poor families (AFP/MANILA BULLETIN)
The 60 students at the government-sponsored ‘skill development’ classes are all from poor families (AFP/MANILA BULLETIN)

While nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi won a new five-year term promising to step up his campaign for a “new India”, 18-year-old Ahmed is pessimistic about getting a new job.

“There are so many people in Delhi and the competition is intense,” said Ahmed, dressed like the other students in a black-and-white uniform at the three-month community course run in a police station in Old Delhi.

“I know this stint may not be enough for me to get a job but I am trying my best.”

Modi came to power in 2014 promising jobs, but delivering on that has been a challenge.

And as soon as the election euphoria settles, Modi’s government will have to find ways to boost investment and revive manufacturing to create new jobs.

Like Ahmed, most of the other 60 students at the government-sponsored “skill development” classes at the Old Delhi police station, all from poor families, were also apprehensive.

Nudrat Akram, 19, signed up for the course because her family could not afford to pay for higher education.

“I want a job in the retail sector where I can earn 10,000 rupees ($143) a month,” Akram said, as she practised speaking English with pretend customers.

More jobs, more debt

India’s conservative prime minister came to power in 2014 on a pro-business platform, promising to create 10 million jobs a year.

The world’s fastest-growing major economy has grown about 7 percent a year since, but jobs have been elusive.

The promise was barely mentioned in Modi’s triumphant re-election campaign.

Nearly two-thirds of India’s 1.3 billion population are of working age, between 15 and 64, but an increasing number are in the unemployed list.

No official data has been released for more than two years but a recent leaked report — denied by the government — put the unemployment rate at a 45-year high of 6.1 percent.

The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, a private research firm, estimates the jobless rate rose to 7.6 percent in April.

“The economy is going to be a huge problem. The government simply cannot create jobs for millions entering the workforce,” said political analyst Parsa Venkateshwar Rao.

“Modi will rely on businesses but they are also struggling so he has a real problem on his hands.”