Asia Minute: India’s Politics of Unemployment

Feb 1, 2019

Vijay Chowk, New Delhi | 2015
Credit Prateeksngh867 / Wikimedia Commons

New jobs figures out this morning show the U.S. unemployment rate remains relatively low. That’s not the case in India — where according to a leaked government report, it’s at the highest level in decades.

There’s a report that unemployment in India is at its highest level in 45 years.

The news does not come directly from the government, but from the Business Standard — a publication The New York Times calls “a respected Indian financial newspaper.”

The Business Standard says the figures were leaked to its reporters after the government refused to release the information. India’s national statistics commission is the group that puts together the numbers.

This week two of its members resigned — saying one of the reasons was the government’s refusal to publish the unemployment report. The head of a government research organization says the report is not yet ready for publication — adding “when the data is ready, we will release it.”

According to the Business Standard, the overall unemployment rate is 6.1 percent, which by itself may not sound alarming. But those figures for 2017 to 2018 are nearly triple the rate of five years ago.

And the jobless rate is much higher for young people.

All of this is political dynamite — coming a few months before a likely election. One of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaign promises was to increase job opportunities for young people.

According to the leaked report, men between the ages of 15 and 29 now have an unemployment rate of close to 20-percent. For urban women in that age group, it’s nearly thirty percent.