India’s Employment Report: Understand Data and Challenges Through the Lens of Caste

According to ‘The India Employment Report 2024’, the SCs are predominantly employed in agriculture and construction — with their representation in manufacturing, trade, storage and services sectors comparatively lower.
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New Delhi— A recent report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Institute of Human Development (IHD) revealed that over 80 percent of India’s unemployed population comprises young individuals.

According to ‘The India Employment Report 2024’, the proportion of unemployed youth with secondary or higher education has surged from 35.2 percent in 2000 to 65.7 percent in 2022.

The report, released by Chief Economic Adviser V. Anantha Nageswaran, noted a rise in youth unemployment and underemployment from 2000 to 2019, followed by a decline during the pandemic years.

While the youth unemployment rate more than doubled from 5.7 percent in 2000 to 17.5 percent in 2019, it decreased to 12.4 percent in 2022.

Between 2000 and 2022, employment in India primarily consisted of self-employment and casual work, with informal employment engaging nearly 90 percent of the workforce. The report highlighted a decline in the proportion of regular employment after 2018, despite a consistent rise post-2000.

Additionally, it emphasized widespread concerns regarding job security, particularly noting the limited coverage of social protection measures, especially in the non-agricultural organized s

But one aspect that is generally overlooked is the role played by caste discrimination, which often discourages many from the marginalised communities from taking up certain employment opportunities.

Jyoti, an Adivasi student from the Bastar division who will soon be gearing up for a job search, said this imminent step makes her nervous. “There are many stereotypes that our community faces and oftentimes, we end up being patronized by Savarna people.”

The student further stated the nature of workplaces has been designed around Savarna experiences, which can often discourage other identities. According to the generalised perception, which has been set up by the “upper” castes, Adivasi people are supposed to look and behave a certain way.

Any change in behaviour, she said, would make people not only question the individual but their entire community.  

“When I go to look for jobs, I would want the equal respect and salary as my fellow colleagues,” said Jyoti.

In the context of India, caste influences every aspect of life, from food choices to dialects, influencing all decisions individuals make.

Rinku, a social worker who belongs to the Dalit community, spoke about how the casteism in workplaces of a metropolitan city such as Delhi is more subtle.

She said, “Discrimination often starts with a joke, which leads to soft bullying and which can affect one’s mental health. Maybe someone will not comment on my work but they would comment on my language and the clothes I wear.”

“At many times, we require more affirmative action or help learning certain skills but someone who may have had the privilege of having access to certain training, would go ahead,” Rinku continued.

In March 2023, a female doctor, working as an intern at the SGPC-run Sri Guru Ram Dass Institute of Medical Science and Research in Amritsar, Punjab, tragically died by suicide. According to her family, the intern was allegedly facing caste-based derogatory remarks from multiple doctors.

In May 2019, Payal Tadvi, the initial gynecologist and the inaugural female student to pursue Doctor of Medicine (MD) from Tadvi Bhil, a tribal Muslim community, tragically ended her life as a result of caste-based harassment from her senior colleagues who were from “upper” caste backgrounds.

This brings to light the need to discuss and implement the Thorat Committee Report.

Under the chairmanship of Sukhadeo Thorat, a committee was established in 2007 by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to investigate allegations of differential treatment against reserved category students at AIIMS Delhi.

This was the first committee to examine caste-based discrimination in higher education.

The committee’s report revealed that approximately 72 percent of SC/ST students experienced some form of discrimination during teaching sessions. Around 69 percent of these students indicated inadequate support from teachers, with approximately half attributing this to inaccessibility and indifference.

About one-third cited their caste background as a reason for being avoided by teachers.

The situation appeared even more alarming during practicals and viva voce examinations. Approximately, 84 percent of SC/ST students reported unfair evaluation during these assessments, while 85 percent mentioned inadequate time allocated for practicals and vivas compared to students from higher castes.

Caste and Employment

In their book titled ‘Scheduled Castes in the Indian Labour Market: Employment, Discrimination and its Impact on Poverty’ published by the Oxford University Press in 2023, authors Sukhdeo Thorat, S Madheswaran and BP Vani explore the economic theories surrounding caste-based discrimination and its repercussions on employment, unemployment, wages and occupations.

Their analysis reveals significant disparities between Scheduled Castes (SC) and higher castes in terms of labour market outcomes. A notable proportion of SC workers are found in low-paying elementary and unskilled occupations, with a considerable presence in agriculture and the construction industry. 

Despite some relaxation in occupational restrictions, traditional patterns of segregation persist, limiting SC individuals to predominantly low-wage work.

In terms of employment, SCs face lower probabilities of securing jobs compared to their counterparts from higher castes. This disparity in employment probabilities contributes to a higher unemployment rate among SC individuals, a trend observed consistently across urban and rural areas.

Unemployment remains a challenge across all education levels for SC individuals, particularly among youth aged 15–29 years, who experience more drop outs than their general category counterparts.

In terms of employment sectors, the SCs are predominantly employed in agriculture and construction, with their representation in manufacturing, trade, storage and services sectors comparatively lower. They are disproportionately represented in low-paying occupations, indicating ongoing occupational restrictions from the past.

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