Sunday, February 06, 2011

It's Not Justs the Arab World - India's Gathering "Employment Bomb"

The Arab world and much of South Asia has been trying to play catch up ball, to build societies capable of moving into the top ranks of world economies.   The easy answer seemed to lie in education.   Build schools, colleges and universities.  Start churning out the graduates needed to modernize their economies.   Few, it seems, recognized the risks entailed in producing too many graduates than their emerging economies could absorb.  It's not limited to university grads either.  It extends into the burgeoning populations who have received elementary and secondary education that was never available to their parents.   They all have expectations of better lives and they expect their governments to deliver.

India and China are in this boat too.  In recent years India went on a higher-education stampede, opening 29 new technical universities a year.  Now they're faced with a swollen number of unemployed or underemployed, deeply frustrated graduates.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that India is facing a very real "employment bomb."

Last week 100,000 jobseekers travelled to a small northern Indian town for a recruitment fair that ended in tragedy, revealing much about the limitations of the country's economic boom.

On offer was the chance of joining the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP). A paltry 416 jobs were available as washermen, barbers, water carriers and other lowly positions with a starting salary of 5,200 rupees ($115) a month.

This remarkable turnout for so few vacancies might have gone unreported except for violence when applicants grew frustrated with the registration process and a gruesome accident as the disappointed hordes headed home.

...But the events in Bareilly send deeper signals about the Indian economy, social change and poverty and tell a different story from the 9.0 percent growth figures and hype about the country as a world economic power.

"  Right now, the problem of unemployment has not fully appeared, but it's a bomb in a dormant state,"   said J. Manohar Rao, an author on development and professor of economics at the University of Hyderabad.

He describes a cocktail of steep food inflation of nearly 20 percent that is causing severe hardship in rural areas, a fast-growing young workforce and slow development of the industries that could generate mass employment.

"  These people at the jobs fair, they are not completely uneducated farm workers like before,"   he told AFP.

"  They are half-educated and they have a feeling of being educated. They have feelings of pride and they don't feel like working in the fields.

"  Their expectations are rising, their aspirations are increasing, but the jobs market is not providing."

The reality is that there aren't nearly enough resources on earth to lift these people out of their poverty and give them anything approaching our standard of living.  Yet they see that on their televisions and through the internet and they aspire to it.  A small number of their ranks become enormously wealthy which only fuels the frustrations of those who can't break in to their world.

As we've seen in the Arab world it takes high levels of broad-based discontent to lead to revolutionary change.  Underemployed, educated youth don't have the explosive power to do it themselves but as detonators for more widespread dissatisfaction, over food prices for example, they can set irreversible change in motion.

There's a reason China is censoring news of the Arab upheaval from its internet servers.  This is it.

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