“Students urged to look for job beyond Nagaland,” goes the headline of a recent news item in The Morung Express pertaining to the State’s for Minister for Planning & Coordination, Land Revenue and Parliamentary Affair address during a students’ conference, where he urged them not to search job only within the state but explore outside saying, “Job is available in any part of the world.”
Don’t think only about government job and the government will not be able to provide job to all, he said, a line, which has become a truism, in recent times.
A day before another headline said, “(Un) Employment rising in Nagaland due to poor skill and job awareness” highlighting proceedings from a skill orientation programme. Stating that unemployment statistics in Nagaland is “at alarming rate,” a speaker noted that thousands graduating each year “become unemployed because of poor skill and job awareness,” to accentuate how a programme run by the Government of Nagaland in collaboration with the institute “help the fresh students and unemployed youths equip themselves with job skills in a rat-race competitive world.”
The grim unemployment scenario was vividly highlighted in the ‘Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) for July 2017-June 2018’ released by the Union Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation (MoSPI) last year. It informed that Nagaland, at 21.4%, had the highest unemployment rate among the states and union territories (UTs) in India. The rate for 15-29 years age-group stood at an overall 56%.
Against this backdrop, if one looks at applicants at the state’s live register of employment exchanges, the numbers are rising over the years - from 54,045 in 2009 to 75,046 in 2018. In addition, not less than 30000 students are either graduating or passing out their higher secondary stage annually, thus a job seeker.
Two things are often stated in such gatherings. First, the government sector is saturated to absorb new employees, while the lack of skills and industry-relevant expertises make most job-seekers unemployable. With the ‘prestigious’ government job out of reach for most given the ‘cut-throat competition’ and other prohibitive factors, most are left with no option but to seek out employment elsewhere.
But what are lived experiences of those migrating outside for work, particularly in the hospitality sector, mainly as service personnel in luxury hotels, shopping malls, restaurants and airlines? This is the key issue raised and analysed by Dolly Kikon and Bengt G Karlsson in their recent book, “Leaving the Land- Indigenous Migration and Affective Labour.” The book traces the migratory journeys of indigenous youth from North-East India to big cities in search of employment, which has witnessed an unprecedented surge over the past one or two decades.
While appearances combined with English language skills and training that focuses on soft skills enhances their chances to enter the hospitality industry, the flipside of the lived experience of those youth, considered foreign and familiar at the same time, is of highly exploitative nature of work and inherent racism they encounter, it highlighted.
Curiously, however, while such trainees are moving out in hordes out of the state due to various ‘push and pull’ factors, the state is also considered an ideal pull-factor for in-bound migrants - a paradoxical situation.
Either way, the fundamental concern for the policymaker is to study the reason behind such phenomena and search for measures to reverse the trend. The standard narratives -that the government job is saturated, venture into entrepreneurship, and embraces skill development - no longer apply or are sufficient.
While the state government has recently made many initiatives for entrepreneurship as well as skill development, they need to be constantly assessed to ascertain whether these policies are producing desired results and most importantly, reaching the right target. Likewise, along with de-glamourising government sector through transparency and accountability, the policymakers also need to prioritise sectors, other than soft skill development, to reverse the migratory trend.