Post Mortem

Looking beyond government jobs: Easing the burden of unemployment

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 1/7/2019 11:08:35 AM IST

 (From previous issue)

This is not to say that one shouldn’t try for government service. One must pursue it with determination if one has a passion for serving in it. But we need to be realistic and action oriented. Given, other things considered, the high unemployment rate, the large number of educated unemployed, a rudimentary private sector and the limited jobs creation capacity of the only major employer, the government, we need to be worried about how much out of the large non-working population that seek government jobs are actually getting absorbed. More importantly, we need to remember that the government sector is not a solution to all unemployment problems; it will be simply erroneous to presume that the government will be in a position to create and provide jobs for all the non-working population. 

So, what becomes of those left out? Where do they turn to? Will blaming the prevalent system bring relief? We know that the system and the circumstances surrounding us is not perfect. But if we are to only resort to fault finding and expect the system to change or improve without each of us doing our own little part, it isn’t going to be of much effect. We may lament that we do not possess the requisite skills to get employed. Or we may complain that our system of education does not sufficiently equip us with employable skills. Legitimate points. But let’s consider this. Skills-based employment in the state on a sizeable scale presupposes: a) the prior and viable existence of such industries/agencies/organizations – public, private or joint ventures, b) that the essential requirement of certain skills or a set of skills in order to meet the employer’s objectives must be available in the knowledge market and acquirable and, c) that thedemand for such skills must be on the upswing. We might as well then ask: What and how many of such industries or agencies are, as of date, operational in the state and to what extent?

Secondly, skills-based education is generally a function of demands – existing, emerging or potential – in the job market. Admittedly, such curricula do need to be introduced, even if not for local market demands here and now but at least for job markets around the country and beyond. But skills-based education generally take time to be introduced and a much longer gestation period before it becomes marketable or an employable asset.

Exploring dreams beyond government jobs 

However, as noted earlier, time is a luxury job seekers can hardly afford to lose. The exigency of time and acute unemployment situation and the larger issue of our economic growth demands that the unemployed sections and the society at large cannot and should not wait for the ideal system change to happen, for big private or public sector investments and businesses to come. It is about time the job aspirants and the unemployed youth made a pragmatic assessment of job opportunities – missed opportunities included – around them, including their aptitude and their resource capacity in order to explore dreams beyond the government services. 

The pervasive culture of dependency on white-collar, government jobs has perhaps been partly responsible for the subdued interest and disinclination in the business and entrepreneurship sector. It is not surprising then that non-local entrepreneurs, who have entrenched themselves in the business, seem to wield disproportionate control of our economic activities. It should be a focal point of concern and learning. It is never too late, though, to make forays into the seamless world of business and entrepreneurship. Despite being a recent entrant to the world of business and entrepreneurship, Naga entrepreneurs and business persons hold potentials to be fast learners and pathfinders. In fact, many local entrepreneurs have been making commendable strides. Success stories of different Naga entrepreneurs doing well in their fields are not uncommon now. 

The success story, among other notables, of Neichute Doulo, a founding member and CEO of Entrepreneurs’ Associates, is a fine example in social entrepreneurship, whose works in such domains as mentoring, training, entrepreneurial start-ups and micro-financing has brought about transformative impact on the lives of thousands of beneficiaries in areas of self-employment, entrepreneurship, Self Help Groups, farming and others.

Indeed, the need for Naga youth and the educated unemployed lot seeking some form of employment to take up entrepreneurship has become all the more persuasive. From one end, there is this tendency to criticise the government and complain about the dearth of jobs and job opportunities. From another, there is a rising chorus of concerns about the monopoly of economic activities and trade in goods and services being in the hands of non-locals, particularly the illegal immigrants. Yet, in the meantime, what has actually been done to address such issues is something that calls for an honest evaluation from all concerned. 

Entrepreneurship as a viable occupation

Rather than sit idle, live off on others, worry or curse one’s luck, the unemployed youths would do well to seriously explore entrepreneurship as a viable occupation. Opportunities are found/created for those willing to take risk and venture out. Economic activities run on demand-supply dynamics. For example, Nagas love pork; and that too local meat. The demand for it is usually quite high and consistent. But the demand is unable to be sufficiently met from local supply. And because of the shortfall of supply, the additional requirement has to be sourced from outside the state. Just imagine the possibilities what local pig farming, regardless of the business scale, can offer! 

Take another example: consider the issue of engagement of artisans and labour force in our domestic activities, say construction. Our people tend to be pretty vocal about not engaging the services of non-local workers, the illegal immigrants in particular, in construction purposes. But when there is no availability of local workers, or even if somehow available, our people are unable to engage their service for varying reasons, what should our people do? Obviously, engage the available pool of workers, who, under the prevailing circumstances, happen to be non-locals, most of them illegal immigrants, coming cheaper and more manageable, as they usually do. Put differently, so long there is demand for workers for construction and other manual/menial activities and so long our people are unable to meet the supply side from our own local workers, the inevitability of demand for their service is something just plain and obvious. Imagine the enormous opportunities what such skilled, semi-skilled to unskilled jobs could provide should our unemployed youths opt for it. 

Similarly, the availability of a wide spectrum of opportunities and possibilities in entrepreneurship or in the private sector can be optimally explored by our young employment seekers – whether educated or semi-literate – with whatever support, resources, technology or technical know-how they can use in order to find meaningful and productive means of livelihood. 

To be sure, not every unemployed youth is fortunate in having the resources needed. But what matters more is the willingness, the clarity of purpose and the enduring grit to try and hang on. Various government schemes, loans and subsidies that are made available from time to time, start-up capitals that are provided by different agencies and institutions like the public sector banks, micro-finance institutions and other support groups – these are some of the sources that can always be made use of for resource support. 

At the end of the day, the sizeable young population of the state will over a period of time replace the aged population. They constitute potential human capital and by extension an agency for demographic dividend – a phenomenon which will occur when the proportion of working population out of the total population is high. Whether our state can reap the benefits of demographic dividend will depend, among other things, on how prepared the state is and how much of the total population is productive and working. 

While the government will need to invest more in strengthening human capital through various measures, a crucial component of action will be a measure of what share of the young population, especially the job aspirants, enter the total workforce. And, given the reality of limited jobs creation in the government sector but with a promising scope in the private sector, a significant share of solution to the challenges of unemployment will necessarily have to be found in how the job seekers respond to it.

(This article has been reproduced from a recently released students’ union 50th anniversary souvenir)

(Concluded)

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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