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From jobs to fewer jobs

Mumbai is not starved of rags-to-riches stories, men and women who came to the city with little except their skills and dreams, and went on to build their modest nests or mega fortunes. Smruti Koppikar writes.

columns Updated: Jul 03, 2013 16:15 IST
Smruti Koppikar
Smruti Koppikar
Hindustan Times

Mumbai is not starved of rags-to-riches stories, men and women who came to the city with little except their skills and dreams, and went on to build their modest nests or mega fortunes. If you are willing to work hard, the city gives you an opportunity to make good, is the refrain often heard from migrants who left joblessness and despair back home in their villages or small towns.

There has been permanence about the hope of finding work in the city, whether the seeker actually finds it or not. A romance, even. Mumbai, among other things, has always been a city of jobs. That, sadly, seems to be changing. No, this isn’t the old textile mill jobs that disappeared. It isn’t about the manufacturing jobs which moved out to the northern regions of the state and neighbouring states. Those were stories of the 1990s.

Here’s the news. From April to June this year, the generation of new jobs in the city declined by a staggering 28 per cent over the corresponding period last year; the city’s share in the total number of new jobs generated across the country plummeted from over 14 per cent a year ago to barely 10 per cent now, according to mintnew figures released by the trusted industry body, Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM). Mumbai managed to generate 13,100 new jobs in the three months. Delhi – how can the old rivalry be left unaddressed? – topped the list of cities that created new jobs with a healthy 27 per cent.

This isn’t disturbing until you check out the job generation across cities in the second half of the last financial year. Mumbai ranked third behind Delhi and Bengaluru then; importantly, the city created one job for every two that Delhi did in an economic market where job generation declined by 14 per cent, also according to an ASSOCHAM report. The numbers from reports in the last few years are not rosy.

The trend in these numbers should begin to disturb the city’s administrators, if they haven’t already. It’s time to examine where and why is Mumbai losing. The answers are not hard to come by. Anecdotal evidence and urban studies over the last five years point to two key factors: the deterioration of the city’s investment and infrastructure climate, and its declining quality of life.

The administration’s stock response to projects that prefer other states or cities has been: Maharashtra and Mumbai still rank the highest in total investment in the country. Why then isn’t the investment translating into jobs?

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) has had the highest share – nearly half -in the state’s economy.

Within the MMR, Mumbai contributed the maximum towards the gross domestic product and employment.

The biggest job creator in the last decade was the tertiary or services sector, typica of the global trend in urbanisation.

Information Technology (IT) and IT-enabled services remain, even today, the largest job creators followed closely by the banking, finance and insurance sector but Mumbai may not be as attractive as it used to be.

Regionalists like the Thackeray cousins may see this as a positive trend because fewer jobs mean fewer migrants. The rest of us see a different picture: our city, warts and all, gradually overtaken by other cities in its most outstanding attribute of creating job or work opportunity.

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