The unemployment situation in the country, most statistical reports concur, is bad and the current scenario is considered one of the highest in many years.
However, it is a global problem and the state of Nagaland is not immune to such a situation.
It is in this context that the recent data on applicants on live register of employment exchanges in Nagaland cited in the Administrative Report 2019-2020 of the Department of Employment, Skill Development and Entrepreneurs (DoESD&E), though alarming, was not entirely unexpected.
Tabled by State’s Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio at the ongoing 5th session of 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA), the data showed a huge spike between 2018 and 2019, the highest rise in years.
As of December 31, 2019, the report stated, there were 90,584 applicants on the live register of employment exchange in the state, comprising of 61,446 males and 29, 138 females.
There are eight employment exchanges in Nagaland and 2 Rural Employment Bureau, according to DoESD&E website.
Further breakup of the data revealed that nearly 38% of the applicants were holding bachelor degree or above, including 6889 Masters; 15% of them had completed 10+2 while 17.07% were matriculate or above. Taken together, over 70.09% (or 64196 applicants) were matriculate or above, inclusive of degree and diploma holders in technical field.
The bigger concern, however, is the drastic jump from last year. For instance, according to the similar reports last year, there were 75,046 applicants on December 31, 2018, and it rose to 90,584 in 2019, showing an increase by 20% or 15,533 in absolute terms.
Registrations in live employment exchanges are often considered conservative as most students actively pursuing their studies tend to ignore it, while large cohorts are unaware. The magnitude, thus, might be much higher.
It was further reported that out of the total applicants, the exchange managed to give placement to 10 applicants, “out of more than 25,000 educated youths, who registered for ‘job assistance.’”
This is indeed an achievement as data provided in the Lok Sabha on December 9, 2019, by the Ministry of Labour & Employment showed that the jobseekers’ placed through employment exchanges in Nagaland from 2015-17 was 'Nil'. In another reply to an unstarred question in Lok Sabha in July 2019, it was informed that between 2012 and 2016, only 0.2% (in thousands) was placed through employment exchanges. Nagaland was not alone though. Most states showed similar figure; another reason for non-registration and sceptics to question the conservative figure.
Nonetheless, according to the annual Nagaland Statistical Handbook, over the years there were indeed some employment through the exchange annually till 2014 when it stood at 110. It declined to 'Nil', thereafter.
Likewise, as per the Handbooks, there were 61757 applicants in 2010 which gradually increased to 68874 in 2012 before declining to 63733 in 2013. Again, after reaching a peak of 72415 applicants in 2015, it declined to 68504 in 2016. Since then the upward trends continue. The increase by 15,533 applicants between 2018 and 2019, however, is the highest annual increment this decade, or maybe even in the exchange history.
Does the figure correlates with the ‘The Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS)’ for July 2017-June 2018 released last year by the Union Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation (MoSPI) highlighting that Nagaland had the highest unemployment rate among the states and union territories in India at 21.4%? Is it a reflection of the same survey showing the unemployment rate for 15-29 years age-group at an alarming 56%?
To question further, is it the outcome of government’s inability to enable ‘Decent Work and Economic Growth’ as indicated by NITI Aayog's 2019-20 Dashboard on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets where the state was 2nd last and performed poorly in other economic-related parameters? Is this just plain statistical correction or due to some policy changes?
These questions need to be studied and proved thoroughly. Notwithstanding the questions, the daunting figure itself is worrisome for its drastic increase cannot be considered an achievement for any incumbent government.