Monday, April 5, 2010

Looking for jobs that are not there

Gulf Today

The Congress-led United Democratic Front, which came to power in 2001, had promised employment to 1.5 million youths but could not provide jobs for even 50 persons, Leader of Opposition VS Achuthanandan had said as he campaigned in the 2006 elections, which was to put him in the Chief Minister's seat.

As his Left Democratic Front government enters the last leg of its five-year term, unemployed youths are still looking for jobs that are not there.

The Smart City project, which the state government was to set up with the help of TECOM Investments of Dubai, was expected to create at least 100,000 jobs, mostly in the information technology sector.

It remains stalled by a dispute between the Dubai firm and the government over the status of a small part of the land earmarked for it.

On Saturday Achuthanandan held aloft another carrot before jobseekers. 110,000 IT-related jobs will be created with the help of a global consultancy firm, he said.

Official statistics indicate that there has been only a small increase in employment in the entire organised sector since the LDF came to power. In March 2006, the public and private sectors together provided employment to 1.10 million people in the state.

The corresponding figure for December 2008 was 1.13 million -- a modest gain of 30,000 jobs. In the public sector, the state's biggest employer, there was actually loss of jobs, with employment falling from 616,000 in 2006 to 607,000 in 2008. Employment in the private sector, however, went up from 485,000 to 524,000.

The state government accounted for 43.85 per cent of the public sector employment, the central government for 10.41 per cent, quasi-government institutions for 41.38 per cent and local bodies for 4.36 per cent.

Job loss in the public sector is a continuing phenomenon. In 2001, more than 645,000 people were employed in this sector. More than 4.5 million people are seeking jobs through the employment exchanges.

In 2000, the exchanges provided government jobs to more than 23,000 persons. In the following years the number declined, touching an all-time low of 8,711 in 2004. More than 10,000 were given jobs in 2005 but the number dropped to four digits again in 2006.

On March 31, more than 20,000 state government employees retired, raising a flicker of hope in the minds of jobseekers. Most of the vacancies that have arisen are to be filled by promotion. Once that process is completed, the government will notify the vacancies at direct entry level, which may number just a few thousands.

The en masse retirement was the result of the government's decision to shift the retirement date of all employees who reached the age of superannuation during the financial year to the last day of the year.

Life expectancy at birth in Kerala is 75 years, the highest in the country. Retirement age of state government employees is 55 years, the lowest in the country. Decades ago the retirement age was raised to 58 years but it was lowered again to increase employment opportunities.

Successive governments have turned a blind eye to the colossal waste of human resources involved in early retirement of employees for fear of offending the vast army of unemployed youths. The Communist Party of India-Marxist, which heads the LDF, is more wary than other parties as the Democratic Youth Federation of India, which it controls, has more than 4.6 million members in the state, many of them jobless.

By pushing the retirement age to the last day of the financial year the cash-strapped government could delay pension payments and earn a brief respite. It is estimated the measure helped it to save Rs15 billion during the year. The chicken will come home to roost in the financial year which has just begun.

60 per cent of the jobseekers on the register of the employment exchanges have only passed the school leaving certificate examination. The government has dashed their hopes by raising the educational qualification for recruitment to some posts, including that of police constable, to pre-degree.

The jobseekers' best hope lies in migration, and the Gulf region remains the most favoured destination. The number of Keralites employed in the Gulf States rose from 1.36 million in 1998 to 2.19 million in 2008, the last year for which figures are available. That makes for 29 migrants for every 100 households.--Gulf Today, Sharjah, April 5, 2010.

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