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Quotas won't work. We need more jobs & better education

Rajendra Mamgain | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:46 IST

The issue

  • The quota debate is here again
  • Many advocate reservation in private sector

The problem

  • SCs, STs, OBCs, Muslims need more representation
  • But reservation can;t solve the problem

More in the story

  • What needs to be done by companies?
  • What kind of policy will help?

The debate over extending reservation to jobs in the private sector resurfaced recently after nearly a decade.

It is well known that employment opportunities are limited and that leads to tough competition.

According to data from the National Sample Survey Office:

  • In India, 87 million workers had regular salaried jobs in 2011-12
  • That's only 18.4% of the total workforce in 2011-12
  • Another 29% were casual wage labourers

  • A majority, 52.3%, were self-employed, mostly with precarious jobs and low income

Regular employment opportunities grew 3.7% - more than any other form of employment in recent years. This growth is largely contributed by private sector.

The growth, however, was inadequate:

  • unemployment swelled to 91.4 million in 2011-12 from 56.03 million in 1993-94
  • that's an increase of 2.8% annually.

The problem of unemployment is more severe among graduate youth, mainly looking for regular salaried jobs. Given the situation, the demand for reservation in private sector jobs by Dalits and Other Backward Classes reflect the huge shortage of regular jobs.

Profiling jobs: private & public sectors

  • the organised private sector provides about 20 million jobs
  • that accounts for 22.6% of regular jobs in the country
  • another 26.1 million jobs are provided by public

  • that's nearly 30% of regular jobs
  • or 5.42% of total employment in the country

  • nearly half the regular salaried jobs (41 million) are generated by the private unorganised sector

Reservation has helped scheduled castes and scheduled tribes get a representation in the public sector proportionate to their share in the population. They are still under-represented in top positions, though.

Reservation in private-sector jobs will not make up for the huge deficit for all sections of the society

The share of OBCs also increased in the sector, though they sill remain underrepresented. Muslims, though, remain grossly underrepresented and their share hasn't improved much.

The private organised sector consistently performed better than the public sector and the unorganised sector in generating jobs:

  • * More than 61.6% additional regular jobs since 1999-2000 were generated by the private organised sector.
  • * That's 11.07 million jobs

All social groups benefitted from the growth, but OBCs benefitted the most: Their share in the private the sector more than doubled to more than 22%. Muslims also had a phenomenal growth of about 14%.

Despite this phenomenal increase, OBCs, STs, Muslims and SCs still have a proportionately low share in organized jobs.

On the other hand, in low-quality informal sector regular jobs, SCs, Muslims and, to some extent OBCs, are fairly represented.

Let us look at the quality of regular jobs, particularly in public and private organised sector, which are the bone of contention.

Based on recent NSSO data, a large 38% of public sector regular employees do not have any written job contract and no social security coverage.

In the organised sector, almost 70% jobs have no written contracts and social-security benefits.

And the number of such vulnerable workers has significantly increased between 2004-05 and 2011-12 - by almost 10 percentage points - both in the public and private organised sectors.

This deterioration affected workers from all social groups. In brief, a large number of regular jobs in the private sector falls short of quality, characterised by poor work conditions, low wages and the lack of social security.

Workers in such jobs are vulnerable to income fluctuations and exploitation by employers. This has contributed to increasing inequality in income distribution in recent years.

What needs to be done

The challenge, therefore, is to create employment opportunities at a faster pace, particularly for youths getting impatient with a political system incapable of generating employment opportunities. More importantly, those jobs should be remunerative and provide social security.

The challenge is to create employment opportunities at a faster pace

Employment generation, thus, needs to be central to development strategy. This calls for measures to increase investment in labour-intensive sectors, especially in industrially backward and remote areas. The measures should include:

  • making it easier to do business
  • development of infrastructure
  • safety

  • good governance
  • sound corporate social responsibilities

  • ethical industrial practices

The current focus of 'Make in India' must promote enterprise development and employment generation. More so among SC/STs as they remain under-represented.

This needs implementation of mentorship programmes for SC/ST entrepreneurs, as promised by the Affirmative Action Policy by private sector in 2006.

Social networks hae become important in accessing regular jobs, which has led to discriminatory hiring in the private sector. But education and skill are still major determinants for both sectors.

Efforts are needed to ensure more young people take up vocational and technical education as well as higher education. Alarmingly, there is a growing deficit of quality education and skill training; more so in case of SCs, STs, Muslims and to some extent, OBCs.

There is a growing deficit of quality education and skill training

The deterioration in the quality of public educational institutions at primary, secondary and higher educational levels have affected Scs and STs the worst as they depend the most on such institutions.

A major challenge is to improve access to quality education, particularly for SCs and STs. The National Skill Development Mission also needs to be pegged up in a big way.

To sum up

Reservation in private-sector jobs will not make up for the huge deficit for all sections of the society. Rather, focus should be on:

  • creating quality of jobs in large numbers and
  • improving education and skills of various social groups

The private sector must intensify its affirmative efforts by contributing to education and skill development of marginalised groups and giving preferences in the hiring of such groups. The reporting of employment turnover and social diversity in workforce should be made mandatory in annual audit reports of the private sector.

Edited by Joyjeet Das

First published: 24 February 2016, 22:37 IST
Rajendra Mamgain

Mamgain is a professor at Giri Institute of Development Studies in Lucknow