Unemployment and under-employment are the two main problems on the job front that Karnataka is staring at. Both have the potential to create social chaos down the line, tending towards criminal and illegal activities, and the problem is likely to be much larger than we know.
Karnataka's unemployment rate - the percentage of unemployed individuals in an economy among individuals currently in the labour force - has been pegged at 1.44 per cent in December 2021, according to data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). Unfortunately, under-employment is not estimated, although with a potential to deliver equally adverse effects on society.
According to the updated data of Karnataka's Department of Employment & Training (June 2020), the state, with a total population of 6.61 crore, had a total employed workforce of 24,11,920 people in the organised sector —10,30,380 (42.72 per cent) in the public sector and 13,81,540 (57.28 per cent) in the private sector. This is besides the huge unorganised sector, which is not estimated.
The fallout of unemployment/underemployment can be devastating on the minds of the youth, more so through a pandemic which plays out as a factor to deliver a cascading impact on the industry, resulting in unwanted outcomes like job losses, salary cuts leading to disillusionment among employees, depression and anxieties.
Although the state is nowhere close to the top of the unemployment rate rankings in India - which is topped by Haryana - the worrisome fact is that the state witnessed 553 suicides due to unemployment, the highest in India, according to the last updated National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data for 2019. The state had reported 224, 375, and 464 cases in 2016, 2017, and 2018, respectively – a steady increase despite a low unemployment rate.
While many youths rendered unemployed settle for underemployment (jobs not matching qualification or skill levels), there are those eyeing quick bucks through crime and illegal activities – a major fallout of unemployment/underemployment.
Retired principal of the Dr Ambedkar Degree College, Kalaburagi, and writer Basavaraj Kumnoor, "The unemployed are indulging in illegal and unhealthy activities for earning money, which has increased crime in the region." Kumnoor hails from the Kalyana Karnataka region which has a 12 per cent unemployment rate.
Unemployment is so serious in Kalyana Karnataka that an MA/BEd graduate, Erannagouda, who was a guest lecturer earning Rs 12,000 per month in Kalaburagi, has ended up looking after sheep at Huli Gudda village of Devadurga taluk in Raichur district.
Rudranna Gulguli, an entrepreneur from Gadag, says, "An MA/BEd graduate who worked as teacher in Bengaluru is still trying for a teacher's post. A BCom graduate, who has completed a certificate course in accountancy, has no job. There are many people in Gadag and surrounding areas who have degrees, but no job opportunities."
Interestingly, there are 30,000 vacancies in different government departments in the entire Kalyana Karnataka Region, which comprises seven districts of Bidar, Yadgir, Raichur, Koppal, Kalaburagi, Ballari and Vijayanagara.
Explaining the employment situation in Dharwad, Sadan Kumar who completed his post-graduation along with a diploma course in foreign language and is now running a photocopying shop due to lack of job opportunities, says he had given interviews at several companies and a majority of them rejected him citing him to be a fresher while a few others rejected him over salary issues.
Dharwad-based social activist Shrishailgouda Kamtar says, "Unemployment has been an unaddressed problem in the region. After COVID-19's first and second waves, the condition has worsened and 70 per cent of the graduates are not satisfied with the jobs they are in."
Dissatisfaction with the job in hand too has remained one of the main reasons for unemployment among youths, especially after the pandemic-driven change in job dynamics and finances started having an impact on the minds of the youths.
Retired principal Kumnoor says the solution lies in streamlining and making self-employment schemes more efficient and attractive. "The only solution for this problem is to see that the government programmes reach the needy, and there should be a check on the programmes."
He says without that, the youth easily slip into unemployment and take to wayward lives. "It increases poverty, decreases production and consumption. Beneficiaries of self-employment schemes should be selected on merit and there should be no corruption, no influence and no middlemen in the selection process. Incentives should be given to successful candidates," he says.
Charan Kumar, a former textile entrepreneur from Davanagere, says, "We need to re-invent ways of starting new business enterprises in the garments industry. This helps generate good employment and provide employment to the labour force at the doorstep. The governments should provide tax benefits to companies coming up with new employment ideas."
According to Arya Vysya Mandali, Kolar, General Secretary GS Karthick, compared to Master’s degree holders and graduates, skilled labourers get jobs easily in Bengaluru.
For example, if one welder joins a factory, he gives contact addresses to his batchmates who also get jobs in the same factory, outlets and other units. This is not feasible for graduates as vacancies are very few for them.
(With inputs from Pramodkumar Vaidya in Dharwad, Ramkrishna Badseshi in Kalaburagi, Raghottam Koppar in Gadag and V Velayudham in Kolar)