This is the firm 23 million Indians want to work for

Not enough seats.
Not enough seats.
Image: Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee
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Nothing beats the lure of a government job in India.

On April 24, Indian Railways said it had received a whopping 23 million applications for just 90,000 vacancies it had advertised for earlier this year. The openings were roles like clerk, station master, ticket collector, commercial apprentice, traffic apprentice, trackman, helper, gunman, and peon.

The outsized demand stems from the paucity of jobs in the Indian private sector, recruitment experts said. Job creation in India has been at an eight-year low, according to official data analysed by the Telegraph newspaper. The slump was mainly due to the twin shocks to the economy: demonetisation in November 2016 and the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST) in July 2017. The two led to millions of jobs being lost, marking a period of jobless growth for the country. One of the largest private sector employers, the IT services industry, was among the worst-hit as firms downsized. Indian tech companies laid off over 56,000 employees in 2017.

In this scenario, government jobs seem like the most secure option, Kris Lakshmikanth, founder of recruitment firm Head Hunters India, told Quartz.

“Take a peon in railways or anywhere, who gets around Rs25,000 ($375) a month. Today, a software engineer can’t get that money unless he joins an Infosys or a TCS (Tata Consultancy Services),” Lakshmikanth said. Besides, government jobs come with perks like provision for children’s education and housing quarters.

While increments are way higher in the private sector, “there are no layoffs in the government,” Lakshmikanth said.

It’s no wonder then that even the most educated prefer low-rung government jobs. Earlier this year, when the southern state of Tamil Nadu opened vacancies for clerical jobs like typists, village administrative officers (VAO) and stenographers, the applicant pool included 992 PhD holders, 23,000 MPhil holders, 250,000 post-graduates, and 800,000 graduates.

This month, the police constable positions in Maharashtra drew applications from doctors, MBAs, and lawyers; and in January, the openings for the positions of peon in Madhya Pradesh drew applications from such highly overqualified candidates.