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Public anger over growing unemployment a big challenge for Modi government

LiveMint logoLiveMint 28-06-2017 Sanjay Kumar

Negative perception about jobs could become the Achilles heel of the Narendra Modi-led Union government, a recent survey conducted by research group Lokniti at the New Delhi-based Centre for Developing Societies (CSDS) seems to suggest.

The “Mood of the Nation” survey of more than 11,000 respondents across 19 states conducted in May this year shows that unemployment is becoming a major concern among people in the country. Nearly a quarter of those surveyed identified unemployment as the biggest problem facing the country today.

The public perception about job creation is worse than what it was during the second term of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, a comparison with past surveys show. A similar study conducted in 2013 found 29% people saying that employment opportunities had increased in the last couple of years. Between 2013 and 2017, that proportion has declined six percentage points to 23%.

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The data shows that youngsters are relatively more likely to be concerned about the unemployment problem. Around one-third of the youth (18-25 years) covered in the survey saw unemployment as the biggest problem. For the entire population, this share was lower at 24%.

It is the educated youth who are relatively more concerned about joblessness. 33% of college-educated youth considered unemployment to be the most important problem. Among non-literate youth this proportion was much lower at 23%. This might be partly related to the quality of higher education in the country, which tends to produce graduates who are often unemployable.

Job-related anxieties are most acute in India’s small cities and towns. Almost three out of 10 respondents (29%) residing in these areas identified unemployment as the most important problem. The proportion of such respondents was lower in villages and metropolitan cities at 22% and 23%, respectively.

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Within small cities and towns, it is the lower class respondents who were most likely to mention unemployment as the most pressing concern, with the share of such respondents being as high as 40%.

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This group is closest to the aspirational “neo-middle class” category which is believed to be one of Prime Minister Modi’s core constituencies. Residing in urban areas, they have shifted out of agriculture and have found jobs largely in the poorly-paid informal economy.

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Providing low-skilled job opportunities which provide better pay and working conditions to this section is one of the biggest challenges facing the Modi government.

At the moment, even those worried about unemployment have a favourable opinion about the government. But the mood might change if job creation does not pick up pace.

This analysis is based on survey data shared exclusively with Mint. Sanjay Kumar is professor and currently director of CSDS, and Pranav Gupta is a researcher with Lokniti-CSDS

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