Under the heading – “You know it’s bad when…”. This one from India.
A Indian job advertisement for humble office tea boys and night guards has attracted 2.32m applicants, including highly qualified graduates, in a sign of how desperate the swelling millions of young Indians are for job security.
Officials said it would take up to four years to conduct interviews for the 368 junior posts advertised by the Uttar Pradesh state government even if candidates were processed at the rate of 2,000 a day by multiple interview boards.
The unprecedented deluge of applications is the latest confirmation of the grim employment prospects in the poor and densely populated states of north India despite an official national unemployment rate of less than 5 per cent.
Narendra Modi, prime minister, promised to create jobs when he was elected last year at the head of the Bharatiya Janata party. His government has focused on programmes to develop workers’ skills, while party leaders have begged young Indians to become entrepreneurs.
But India is struggling to create employment even for the 12m school leavers entering the workforce each year, let alone for the accumulated backlog of unemployed among the population of 1.3bn.
Economists and investors put much of the blame on India’s highly restrictive labour laws, which discourage private employers from hiring, along with the privileges enjoyed by government employees and the “reservation” system of preferences for lower caste Indians. Fewer than a tenth of India’s 500m workers are employed in the formal sector, and half of those have jobs in government or state-owned companies such as Indian Railways.
Asked about the millions of applications for jobs as night-guards or office “peons” — the helpers who clean up and bring tea to bureaucrats — Surjit Bhalla, chairman of Oxus Investments, said: “Everything you know is wrong with India is personified in that statistic . . . both our labour laws and the fact that in a government job you do nothing and get paid a nice, healthy, fat wage. You can’t be fired. You’re there forever.”
The Uttar Pradesh government said it wanted the peons for the state assembly in Lucknow to be able to ride a bicycle and have at least five years of school education, but among the applicants were 255 with doctorates in subjects such as engineering as well as 200,000 with master’s degrees. Salaries start at about Rs16,000 ($240) per month.
“There are no jobs anywhere,” Alok Chaurasia, who has a degree in electronics and communication engineering, told NDTV television news. “The moment I saw the ad for the peon’s job, I applied. Any work is better than nothing.”