Covid blow: Skewed job market awaits lakhs of fresh graduates

By Prof. K. Stevenson  Published on  3 May 2020 4:20 AM GMT
Covid blow: Skewed job market awaits lakhs of fresh graduates

Hyderabad: While the UGC schedule to conduct exams for final years by the end of July, augurs well, what next is the question? Osmania University alone has around one lakh undergrads and nearly 25 000 post graduates who will take their exams and take their degrees hopefully by September. Add a couple of more thousands from the other State Universities in Telangana.

Why is it alarming for these young graduates who would add to the bulging unemployment figure which stands at 26 per cent amid the covid crisis. It is so because of the long waiting lists of unemployed. Next, is the influx of workers from overseas once the lockdown is lifted. Shrinking jobs in private sector as it waits to prioritise, re-strategise and postpone their hiring and recruitment.

Despite stimulus package, the private sector has witnessed a bloodbath, not to speak of the migrant labour, daily wagers who have become invisible in the government prism of policy formulation. From end-March, most companies have resorted to sacking people, asking employees to go on indefinite leave without pay, and slashing salaries by as much as 85 per cent. Over, 100 million and more Indian jobs will be at risk during and after the COVID-19 lockdown stage according to a report in the Outlook. An assessment by an MBA faculty in Osmania reveals that there are at least 36 job tasks which have taken a severe beating and would take time to recover in the post covid situation.

Government jobs do not figure anywhere. The TSPSC has done a fairly good job so far despite the legal wrangles. A lot remains to be done and it would be a herculean task as it involves decision making at various levels and different departments.

Each year, students head overseas for higher education and dream of settling down in US, UK, Australia and Canada. According to the International Consultants for Education and Fairs (ICEF), India is the world’s second largest source of international students, with over 7,50,000 students studying abroad in July 2018. Following the lethal blow of Covid to the social and economic aspects, US and the advanced countries which are major educational destinations to Indian students may not be in a position to offer scholarships and assistantships or even welcome foreign students for at least a couple of years. As a result such students have either shelved their plans/ deferred or are rethinking given the uncertain prevalent conditions. It implies that these students who would be graduating would stay put in India to explore job options.

A leading overseas educational consultant in city says that the situation looks dark and might affect long-term plans for many. Students who have already got admission are rethinking as classes have moved online and there is no clarity by when situation will improve. Paying a hefty fee just to attend classes online does not seem to be a lucrative option. These many also compete for the limited number of local jobs.

The problem gets compounded as overseas workers land on Indian soil due to the nationalization policies of various governments despite the fact that the entire domestic, service-sector economy depends on expatriates’ consumption: spending money, going to restaurants, retail. Gulf economies have leveraged their oil wealth to swell their populations with foreign workers and build vibrant consumer societies. Expats now account for around 48.1% of total population in GCC countries

Such policies which were already in vogue are likely to be stringently implemented given the fall in the oil prices and the rising unemployment of their youth. For instance, the Oman government, as a part of Omanisation has directed all government owned companies to fire expats and recruit locals and there is a fear that it may expand to private sector. The number of expats working in Oman stands at eight lakh. According to United Nations estimates the U.A.E., with a local population of around 1 million, last year hosted more migrants than France or Canada. A self-inflicted wound is the pervasive Islamophobia in the social media which acted as a trigger to overhaul their labour policies despite efforts of the Ministry of External Affairs to engage the Arab states and reassure them that all is well.

Outcries have risen from socio-political leaders in several States in India demanding special initiative from the Centre and its external affairs managers to bring back the expatriates before a possible explosion of the pandemic in the Gulf where the treatment management is not of high order. The expat workforce includes those engaged in white collar jobs, technical and non-technical jobs. The total amount of money sent home by migrant workers could be as high as twice the official number of $70 billion to $75 billion, said George Naufal, co-author of “Expats and the Labor Force: The Story of the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries.

Rural unemployment back in India is likely to witness a spike, especially with the return of labour involved in low paid jobs in the Gulf.

In the backdrop of a glut in the supply side of job market, a LinkedIn survey revealed that 64 per cent of job-seekers will increase their time spent on job search in the next two weeks, while more than half will increase their time spent building their resumes. On the contrary, self-employed individuals have expressed lower confidence in job stability and financial betterment. Moreover, 63 per cent job-seekers, 61 per cent of self-employed professionals and 65 per cent of full-time employees said they would increase their time spent in online learning during the lockdown preparing for a better morrow.

The shrinking job market has the portents of creating unrest among the young graduates unless the government puts in place some short term and long term measures to ensure that their transition is made smoother.

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