Unfortunately, Punjab has been in the throes of an employment crisis for some years now, but, gravely, the severe blow dealt by the pandemic-induced lockdown seems to have aggravated the situation. The educated youth engaged in or aiming for salaried placements have borne the brunt of job losses and contraction of the economy. This is apparent from the fact that 1,152 posts of patwari recently thrown open have drawn as many as 2.33 lakh aspirants. The huge number of overqualified youths seeking this comparatively low-level government job further reflects the desperate state of affairs.
The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy study reveals volatile month-wise data of India’s unemployment rate. From September 2020 to February 2021, the unemployment rate has swung between a high of 9.1 per cent and a low of 6.5 per cent, with the average being around 7.4 per cent. (Notably, Haryana fared the worst, with the highest rate of 26.4 per cent). Indeed, the country is witnessing a full-blown, unprecedented job crisis. It exceeds the earlier high figure of joblessness. The Periodic Labour Force Survey by the National Sample Survey Office in January 2019 had revealed that the country’s unemployment rate had hit a 45-year-high of 6.1 per cent in 2017-18. Incidentally, the report was embroiled in a political slugfest over GDP statistics. Two members of the National Statistical Commission had resigned, alleging that the government had withheld the release of the report despite the commission’s clearance.
The government must not repeat the mistake of trying to sweep the facts under the carpet. It is incumbent upon both the states and the Centre to generate an atmosphere and economic policies that are conducive to creating jobs. The youth in Punjab, in particular, face a bleak future. Even as it has been witnessing widespread de-industrialisation for over a decade, the state has failed to remedy the situation. Its ‘Progressive Punjab’ conferences have not yielded any substantial investments on the ground. Meanwhile, the traditional engine of growth — farming — too has plateaued. Parents are selling their lands to finance children who are emigrating abroad in droves in search of better job opportunities.