The hashtag #ModiRozgaarDo has been trending on Twitter for the past two weeks, and has been used in over 36 lakh tweets so far. It not only indicates the frustration of youth over lack of employment opportunities, but also draws one’s attention to the slump in government recruitments over the past few years.
Even as 5 crore candidates appear for various state and central government examinations every year, a look at the recruitment process conducted by government institutions in recent years reveals the NDA government’s poor record on the employment front. It is a common pattern for the examinations to be delayed, while candidates in many cases have to wait for more than five years for the results to get published.
The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), Staff Selection Commission (SSC) and Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) which are the major recruitment agencies of the government have shown a fall in recruitments in the past five to seven years. In 2014-15, while the three agencies recruited 1,13,524 candidates, the number came down to 1,11,807 in 2015-16, and further fell to 1,00,933 in 2016-17. Results of some of the exams held in 2017 are still awaited, keeping government posts vacant for almost four years.
While Group A officers are recruited to central government services through UPSC, a large-scale recruitment for Group B and Group C posts of central services are conducted through the SSC combined graduate-level (CGL) examination. SSC comes under the Centre’s Department of Personnel and Training.
In 2011, there were 12,586 vacancies in SSC (CGL) examination, 16,119 in 2012 and 15,146 in 2013. In 2014, the last year of the UPA-II government, the number of vacancies stood at 15,549 and since has been reduced to almost its half. In 2015, only 8,511 vacancies were announced. While the number of vacancies slightly increased to 10,661 in 2016 after SSC-CGL aspirants protested against the slump in numbers, it fell to 8,089 in 2017. In 2021, the posts were reduced to just 7,035.
In the UPSC exam as well, the posts which used to be around 1,200-1,500 before 2014 have been reduced. In 2014, there were 1,291 vacancies and 1,129 in 2015. It was reduced to just 780 in 2018, and 796 in 2020, a 40 per cent decrease in 5 years.
Similarly, vacancies for recruitment of clerks by Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS) was reduced from 36,000 in 2013 to 7,880 in 2017 and further to 2,557 in 2020.
Vacancies for IBPS Probationary Officer which were 21,680 in 2013, was reduced to 12,434 in 2015, 3562 in 2017, and finally 1,167 in 2020, a 95 per cent cut in seven years.
Answering a question in Rajya Sabha in 2019, Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Jitendra Singh admitted to the decreasing number of jobs in government sectors.
“When this government (the NDA government) came in 2013-14, the vacancy percentage was 16.2 per cent. The successive year it was 11.57 per cent. Then in 2015-16, it was 11.52 per cent, then in 2016-17, it was 11.36 per cent,” he informed the House.
Similarly, strength of employees in Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) has recorded a significant fall after Narendra Modi became Prime Minister. While in 2013-14, the employees’ strength in CPSEs was recorded at 13.49 lakh, the number came down to 11.31 lakh in 2016-17. Even in the period between 2011-12 and 2017-18, employment in CPSEs fell by as much as 2.2 lakh in total.
Even worse, among “non-executive” workers in CPSEs, the proportion that is under contract or casual/daily work has increased significantly. By 2017- 18, such insecure workers accounted for more than one-third of the actual workforce.
States not hiring much
States and Union territories also created an average of 26,144 jobs per month so far in 2020-21, much less than earlier years. If one considers data of June and July, state government payroll additions were at 20,222 and 22,473 respectively.
When the average number of job additions in the first four months of 2020-21 is compared with the average of the past two fiscal years, the difference is significant. In 2018-19, 5,42,504 jobs were created, or a little more than 45,208 per month, according to data provided by the ministry of statistics. In 2019-20, states created 4,96,003 positions or 41,333 per month, according to the data.
“Government hiring is going to fall further,” Prem Chand, general secretary, Indian Public Service Employees Federation told the media. “Fresh hiring is very slow for government jobs and replacement hiring after superannuation of employees is not happening proportionately. This is a clear cost-cutting measure by the government,” he said.
The government departments both at the Union and state levels are either reducing posts or going for contract workers, said Chand. “At the central secretariat level, you can easily see a lot of low paid contract workers in recent times and even at the joint secretary and additional secretary support staff jobs are privately sourced,” he said.
Ailing economy worsens burden
A sharp decline in GDP in FY20 has shrunk job creation in India, leading to at least 16 lakh fewer government and low-paying jobs in the financial year. The slow pace of growth will have a direct impact on payroll creation as labour remittances are declining, said an SBI Ecowrap report.
Arun Kumar, the Malcolm Adiseshiah Chair professor at the Institute of Social Sciences and a former professor of Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said that demonetisation and GST are the major culprits behind the shrinking of the economy and lack of government jobs.
Arun said that through the GST, the Centre thought that the tax collection would increase, but the government received less to the extent that the Centre couldn’t compensate the states for the shortfall in tax revenue.
Arun highlighted that since the economy is in negative growth this time, the states are suffering and that is why they are increasing the tax rates for road and transport, electricity, fuel or liquor to cover their deficit.
“Due to less tax collection, the centre and the states don’t have money to pay the salaries of their existing employees, how will they pay for new employees? So that is why they are either not hiring or delaying the results. Even the government is selling PSUs to meet their fiscal deficits, so some government jobs have reduced from there as well,” Arun said.
Ideological shift: Bid to privatise
“The central government’s negligence towards public employment is a result of their ideology. They want to privatise everything now. Prime Minister Modi declared in 2014, ‘I believe the government has no business to do business. The focus should be on Minimum Government but Maximum Governance’,” said Akash Ranga, an independent researcher.
“The PM said it loud and clear that he will be reducing the number of government vacancies and privatise things. This works really well with his voters as well. Seventy per cent of Indians are engaged in the private sector and whenever they have to deal with the government officers, they have been asked for a bribe. So people want to get rid of such a system as well,” he added.
Akash, however said that privatising government sector, at the same time, is a “very short-sighted strategy, deeply irresponsible and unjust behaviour of the government.” “The youth of India needs jobs and the governments are one of the biggest employers.”
“Also, in the government jobs, you get the reservations for the marginal castes who will not get anything once these jobs were finished. We were saved from the 2008 economic crisis because we were a mixed economy. The private economy will not work in India also because of the per capita income of people in India, which is very less,” he added.