As high as 40 per cent of the graduate labour force is unemployed in the State of Uttarakhand
Uttarakhand is in the midst of heavy campaigning for the assembly elections. Addressing unemployment is on most political agendas. It is a real crisis. According to Periodic Labour Force Survey 2019-20, over 7 per cent of labour force is unemployed in Uttarakhand, which is almost double than the national average of 4.8 per cent. The number of unemployed persons in Uttarakhand more than doubled from 1.39 lakh in 2011-12 to 3.23 lakh in 2020-21.
Nearly 70 per cent unemployed are youth and well educated.Joblessness among youth in Uttarakhand is a high 20 per cent as compared to the national average of 15 per cent.As high as 40 per cent of the graduate labour force is unemployed.
Youth in mountain regions suffer from a higher incidence of unemployment (24 per cent) as compared to three plain districts of Hardwar, Dehradun and Udhamsingh Nagar (16.4 per cent). Gender-wise, nearly 30 per cent of young male labour force in hill areas is unemployed. The corresponding figure is about half in plain areas. The incidence of unemployment is comparatively least among young female labour force in hills (13.6 per cent) as compared to their counterparts in plain areas (24.3 per cent).
The annual growth in the number of unemployed young men in mountain region has been highest over 16 per cent between 2011-12 and 2019-20. The proportion of unemployed youth is disproportionately high in hill districts accounting for over 54 per cent of total youth unemployed in the state. The latest CMIE data also records a jump of over three-times in unemployment rate.
It merits mention here that the mountain region is confronting huge out-migration and the related situation of depopulation. According to Uttarakhand Human Development Report, every third rural household in the hill districts reported out-migration. Lack of remunerative employment opportunities, access to quality education and health services are forcing many to out-migrate at a rising rate.
As regards the employment scenario, among the workforce of 40.8 million persons in the state in 2019-20, over 47 per cent are employed in agriculture, which contributes less than one-tenth in the GSDP of the state. The next important sectors are manufacturing, construction and trade contributing one-tenth each to total employment in the state. In the plains, however, non-agriculture sector is the dominant source of livelihood, providing employment to over 72 per cent of workforce therein. Surprisingly, dependence on agriculture as a source of employment in hill region tended to increase between 2011-12 and 2019-20, whereas it decreased by almost ten percentage points in plain regions.
The situation of rising unemployment in general and outmigration from hill region in particular needs serious attention of politicians and development practitioners at the earliest. It requires the implementation of Uttarakhand Vision 2030 prepared by the government of Uttarakhand in 2018, which identified high value agri-business based livelihoods, tourism, green energy, eco- services and forestry as major drivers of employment and economic growth.
This necessitates reorienting government spending for creation of technology support for developing livelihoods and related credit and marketing support on a large scale, particularly focused on mountain-centric development.The Hill Development Policy needs to be prepared for creating balanced regional development. Towards this end, block headquarters need to be developed as growth centres by provisioning quality infrastructure and attracting private investment for micro, small and medium enterprises development in a big way. The Industrial Policy of the state needs to be rejigged to promote private investmentin employment intensive light industries and services in mountain regions.
The Government can create employment opportunities by creating an Eco-Task Force with due social security benefits, which will help in conserving forests and environment and could generate revenues for their sustainability. The expansion of education needs to be strongly supported with the intensive efforts of skill development in local resource-based occupations and also in broader skill sets in emerging occupations to compete outside the region/state.
The Uttarakhand government has to make its development strategy more mountain-centric and act fast to reduce the vulnerability of households to natural disasters, manmade disasters like Covid-19, push-outmigration and unacceptable regional economic inequalities. This would require a visionary political leadership and dedicated bureaucracy to transform the migration-prone hill region into a destination of employment and income opportunities for local youths.
(The writer is Professor & Head, Department of Economics,Doon University, Dehradun. The views expressed are personal.)