India’s robust economic growth, averaging 8.6 per cent during the last four years, is bound to trigger a boom in employment. As the economy is becoming increasingly services-driven, this is naturally the sector where jobs are likely to be generated. Reports mention that aviation and hospitality are set to emerge as top job creators as more Indians can afford air travel and events like the 2010 Commonwealth Games will increase the number of hotels and services in general. Similar surveys have highlighted that the top emerging jobs are likely to be in biotechnology, education and training, animation, event management, R&D, fitness consultancy, fashion designing and the NGO sector. There is, no doubt, that most of these avenues are in the fast-growing services sector that now accounts for close to 60 per cent of India’s GDP.
Unfortunately, the official data-gathering machinery can reliably track these trends in the labour market only with a lag. The National Sample Survey Organisation’s (NSSO) five-yearly surveys on employment and unemployment are a case in point, the most recent data of which is available for 2004-05. According to the NSSO, service sector jobs in trade, hotels, restaurants, transport, storage and communications, real estate and business services accounted for 25 per cent of the incremental growth of the workforce in the country from 1999-2000 to 2004-05. Contrary to popular perception, jobs in manufacturing are also rapidly growing, accounting for 20 per cent of the incremental work force growth during this period. If construction activity is factored in, this proportion is much higher.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that the typical Indian worker is not the service-sector stereotype from the aviation or hospitality sector. Far from it. Economists like K Sundaram have pointed out that “despite some occupational diversification, India still remains a land of farmers, fishermen, hunters and loggers, with marginal gains in the share of production process workers and of professional and technical workers, and administrators, executive and managerial workers”. This reflects the incomplete nature of the transformation of India as it surely but slowly moves away from agriculture.