Desperate Indian graduates now don’t mind being drivers, maids or mechanics

Image: AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool
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There just aren’t enough white-collar jobs in India for the country’s graduates. So increasingly, Indians fresh out of college with bachelor’s degrees are looking for blue-collar jobs.

Some 40% of those eyeing profiles such as office assistants, drivers, bartenders, maids, and mechanics were graduates, according to data analysed in September by hiring platform QuikrJobs, which has around seven million active job seekers registered with it.

“There is a huge demand-supply gap as far as graduates are concerned. A significant number of graduates, too, are applying for blue-collar jobs—a clear commentary on the need to create more jobs,” the QuickrJobs report said.

Statistics, thus, point to the twin issues plaguing the job scene in Asia’s third-largest economy: Not all Indian graduates are skilled enough for specialised or sophisticated jobs. And there aren’t enough jobs to suit the skill sets of the over five million graduates India churns out every year.

Over 80% of India’s engineering graduates are unemployable, estimates show. It’s the same story for post-graduates—almost 93% of MBAs aren’t fit for jobs.

Graduates for sweepers

India’s college system is often criticised for its emphasis on rote-learning, negligible research opportunities, and little skills training. This means that many graduates make do with manual labour or blue-collar jobs. In January 2016, some 19,000 graduates applied for the 114 vacancies for sweepers in Amroha, Uttar Pradesh. Many of these were even PhDs and MBA holders.

While a bachelor’s degree usually implies general excellence, the picture is different in India, said Amitabh Shah, founder of Yuva Unstoppable, a youth-focused NGO.

“(But), despite the plethora of institutions popping up on every street corner in India, that (old-fashioned) notion of a degree has disappeared. Now you can have someone… with a Bachelor’s degree in English literature and you’re not even sure they can speak English,” Shah told the Wharton School’s online business analysis journal on Oct. 05.

Even prime minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious plan to impart skills to graduates doesn’t seem to be working. In 2015, only 5% of the over 1.7 million students trained under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana got jobs.

It doesn’t help that job growth in eight labour intensive sectors in India was at a seven-year-low in 2015. So, while India needs more jobs, it also must make its graduates job-ready.