The number of employed youth in the age group of 15-29 years has gone down by 30% in the six years to 2021, a joint study by Centre for Economic Data and Analysis (CEDA) and Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) has found. This reveals a sharp drop in creation of new jobs.
According to the study, there were 103.8 million employed youth in the above age group in first quarter of 2016, which came down to just 72.57 million in the October-December 2021. Though there has been a slight recovery from the 2020 level, the number of employed youth during October-December 2021 was still 13% lower than in the corresponding period of 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic hit the country by March-April 2020.
“Lower employment in 2021 than the pre-pandemic period points to sluggish economic activity that provides fewer opportunities for young workers,” the study said.
With lower employment and decline in the rate of creation of new jobs, the share of the youth in the above age group among the employed also has fallen considerably over the five years. While they made up 25.6% of all employed workers in 2016, the number was 21% in 2019. In 2021, the share decreased further to just 18.2%. Interestingly, the share of workers aged 50-59 years has increased from 16% in 2016 to 24.6% in 2021.
However, it is not just their share in the overall employment, but the total size of the youth labour force also declined by 22% from 134.1 million in the first quarter of 2016 to 104.3 million in the last quarter of 2021.
“This shows that while 30% fewer 15-29-year-olds were employed in 2021 (as compared to 2016), many did not add to UEWL (unemployed but willing to work and actively looking for jobs) numbers. It is possible that they searched for a job for a few months, and then opted to exit after not getting any employment. This points to long-term unemployment,” it said. There had also been a 9% decline in their number in the labour force compared with the last quarter of 2019 — pre-pandemic days.
Ankur Bhardwaj, the author of the study, said, “The sharp decline in employment and labour force of 15-29-year-olds has been a steady phenomenon since 2016. The Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated a pre-existing decline.”
The study found that between 2019 and 2020, the highest fall in employment for 15-29-year-olds was seen in Delhi with a decline of 38%, reducing from 1.6 million in 2019 to one million in 2020. Delhi was followed by J&K – with a decline of 37% and Haryana with a decline of 35%.
“On comparing 2021 with the pre-pandemic year 2019, we find that Uttarakhand saw the sharpest decrease in employment for 15-29-year-olds with a decline of 43% followed by Goa with a decline of 42%. In Delhi, the 2021 numbers are still 39% lower than 2019 and in Haryana they are 40% lower,” it said.