We are living through what is perhaps the worst time to be young. Not only are young people expected to play the dual role of being caregivers and breadwinners, but they are expected to do so at a time when a pathogen is fundamentally changing the way we live. The harshest consequences of the pandemic are – long term economic slowdown and peaking of unemployment figures. So, the young today are faced with a situation no one ever had.
India’s GDP shrunk by 5% in the last four weeks since the lockdown. Considering the restrictions on economic activity will not be lifted in a hurry, the economy will take many such blows in the coming future. In such a situation, the biggest challenge for the government is to be able to provide jobs, which will, in turn, keep stoves burning.
The problem is compounded by the fact that India’s unemployment situation was bad before COVID19 struck.
The Central Government in India publishes figures for unemployment every year. And in 2019, they said the country was seeing a 45-year high at 6.5%. Importantly, that does not include those who are qualified for better jobs but have to settle for less – the underemployed. Most observers think that government figures are not even a fraction of what the situation is. The government claims 60 out of 100 students who graduate are jobless. If they are underquoting such dire figures, we are in worse trouble than we think.
Once the lockdown restrictions are lifted, the young will pour out on the streets looking for work. At a point, the challenge for the government will be to provide all sectors of the economy with a simultaneous boost. Giving some sector aid will not lift the entire economy out of troubles. The last thing a young India wants is for its youth to demand work and for the system to have none.