Creating meaningful jobs is a global problem and it is no different for Himachal Pradesh. The relatively young demographic profile of the state compounds the problem.
The number of unemployed workforce in the state is a staggering 8, 92,988, as per the data of the Department of Labour and Employment, (Figures as on 31.03.2017, aged 15-45); it constitutes about 13% of the states total population.
The 2017-18 Economic Survey of Himachal Pradesh estimated that there were about 60,549 young men and girls who would come into the job seeking market for the year after having finished their courses in the various educational institutes of the state. The survey put the number of fresh graduates for the year at 4,928-degree holders, 7,837 diploma holders and 47,784 from both private and government ITIs..
The much touted demographic dividend is imperceptibly turning into the dreaded demographic recession.
The cardinal question, however, is: What, thus, is the way forward? The manufacturing sector in the state is bad shape for obvious reasons: The hilly terrain, harsh weather conditions, geographical location of the state, lack of adequate infrastructure, non-availability of railways, limited availability of land for industrial use, over dependence on roads for transportation, the cartel of transporters and botched up industrial policy. Consequently, only a handful of jobs were created in this sector-that too, mostly, on the shop floor.
In the past, the state did create umpteen ministerial jobs, especially, in the government sector. The state government employs, incredible, 2, 20,215 people (Source: Employees census2017 Govt. of HP. Figures as on 31.03.2017.), which is 3.20% of the total population. 94% of this workforce is employed in non-ministerial jobs. However, with the advent of technology, these jobs have either dried up or have become obsolete. A government can offer only a limited number of jobs that is never enough to meet the demand of the burgeoning workforce.
The answer about job creation lies in sectors like tourism, IT and Food Processing.
The state is blessed with bucolic setting and salubrious climate that makes it’s a top tourist destination-albeit, numerous places are yet to exposed to tourism activity. As tourism offers bountiful job prospects far more easily than, for say, manufacturing. Hence, building requisite infrastructure and marketing our tourism aggressively should be the priority to attract investment in this sector.
Resources that drives the tourism sector are limited, rare, susceptible to climate change and vulnerable to environmental degradation. Thus the development of tourism should be sustainable and bereft of any overexploitation keeping in mind the fragile ecology. The state must ensure sustainable tourism.
It’s customary for IT companies, globally, to prefer a location that is politically stable, sylvan, pollution free with an abundant availability of well-equipped workforce. The state offer all of this. It must put its act together to attract investment in this sector. Himachal Kaushal Vikas Nigam and various technical institutes should strive hard for partnership with countries like Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong etc to enhance the skill level and bolster modern training to the available workforce.
The linchpins of the state economy are agriculture and horticulture, contributing 22.5 % of the Gross State Domestic Product and employing 71% of the working population. Time for transition of agriculture and horticulture to the next step: to lay massive thrust on small-scale unit’s food processing industries based on local agriculture and horticulture produce, as, units as such, can employ a large number of workforce.
The state is also known as the “Apple state of the India” for large-scale production of apple. The Apple economy is worth 4% (Rs4000 crore) of the Gross State Domestic Product. The Small Food processing units dependent on local produce, coupled with sustainable agro-tourism can employ a large number of workforce. Albeit, it requires imparting technological knowledge; providing easy lending to the farmers and improving the overall industrial ecosystem – as China did in the early nineties and transformed its apple producing belts into food processing hub.
The state government has launched Start-Up and MMYS scheme, backed with sufficient budget allocation, this is set in the right direction. If such schemes are targeted properly with effective monitoring, it can change the propensity of state workforce from job seeker to job creators. In the absence of these factors, the budget allocation might become “slush fund” and yet another bureaucratic boondoggle whose fate is foredoomed to be a failure.
On top of this, the government needs to bring, much needed, changes to the education structure. The time of rote learning and regurgitating is over. Structural changes will ensure that the burgeoning future workforce is competent that can face up with the challenges of the job market.
The prognosis of unemployment can be appalling. The malady requires preemptory measures, if it’s not addressed in time, the concomitant could be severe. The job conundrum can easily turn the utopian dream of the state into a dystopian nightmare.
Sunny Grack is a former banker. Interested in matters on economy, globalisation ,financial market and public policy; an Economic and Management graduate. He lives in Shimla.