Jobs for the young must be a key policy priority
In view of the latest figures in latest figures in the Periodic Labour Force Survey, a few questions to ensure unemployment for the youth
Economic data published this week turned my attention to economics, economies, and the numbers or statistics that make up the raw material that economists study. I was prompted to do so by the latest figures in the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS).
One definition of the economic analysis that we are presented with every day is that “it involves the choices that individuals, businesses, governments and nations make to allocate resources”. But figures are narrow and lifeless, and analysing them rough the lens of economics can never, on its own, produce a full picture. To make matters worse, the analysis can produce a wrong picture if it becomes a theory, such as socialism or market economics. India once experienced an overdose of socialism. It is now, as I see it, suffering from an overdose of market capitalism. Socialism bound the economy in red tape. Now with the dominance of market capitalism, India appears to be going down too narrow a path.
I have a friend, Ram Gopal Aggarwal, who has had a distinguished career as an economist. He studied mathematical economics at Manchester University and went on to use that most numbers-obsessed school of economics to build models for India and other countries. But he found that mathematical calculations very often produced wrong results, so preferring to be, as he put it, roughly right rather than absolutely wrong, he joined the World Bank, There, he held senior positions in Africa, followed by China. In Africa, he saw the harm that The Washington Consensus – a raft of policy prescriptions that institutions such as the World Bank or International Monetary Fund often operationalise in developing countries – can do. In China, he saw the costs as well as advantages of following the Chinese model of development. Now, he has become sceptical about economics.
Recently, I discussed with Ram one of the most commonly repeated economic theories about India being a lucky country because of its youthful population. China and America are going to have an ageing population. China now appreciates that its economists were short-sighted when they urged the government to take strict measures for controlling the expanding population. As a result, the government did away with its one-child policy recently. Two years ago, families were told to have as many children as they wanted.
Ram believes India’s market economics could well turn into a disaster. The PLFS survey I talked about earlier was headlined, “Urban Youth Unemployment Falling, Not Enough For Demographic Dividend”. It suggests production hasn’t expanded in proportion to employ the youth bulge. The survey maintains the unemployment rate among India’s urban youth (15 to 29) during the fourth quarter of the 2022-23 financial year remained elevated, though lower than previous quarters. This raised questions about India’s youth dividend policies.
There is one question that should be asked – how will many jobs be created when the advice to boards is often to increase profits by cutting staff.? What about the much-talked-about AI or artificial intelligence? Surely it will be a job killer? Already in supermarkets, customers are encouraged to manage paying for purchases themself with machines that have put cashiers out of work. There are forms you now have to fill in electronically because there is no longer any other way of doing it. Figures for the loss of these sorts of jobs could surely be signs of the problem Ram is warming about. What he recommends for India is a major expansion in the construction sector, particularly housing, and relations with the best universities that teach subjects such as medicine, engineering, accountancy, and other professions that students might want to follow.
The views expressed are personal.