By: Christopher Turillo
“Nineteen-thousand graduates, postgraduates, MBAs and B.Techs apply for 114 sweeper jobs offered by Amroha Nagar Palika in Uttar Pradesh” – Times of India, January 21, 2016.
This story caught the attention of many people inside and outside of Uttar Pradesh last year. For someone working in tier II and III cities in UP, this news didn’t come as a surprise to me. However, we do often hear the shock in people’s voices when they come from major cities to interact with our students here. Once somebody said, “I knew government jobs were popular here, but I didn’t realise just how much people are obsessed with them!”
To better understand this scenario, why it is troubling, and what we can do about it, let us look at the ‘mujhe sarkari naukri hi chahiye (I only want a government job)’ phenomenon.
According to many people, government jobs mean security, stability and status.
“Jo value sarkari naukri ki hoti hai, woh private job ki nahi. Jab aap government job karte hai, toh log aapko maante hai, aapki respect karte hai. (The prestige that a government job has is much higher than that of a private sector job. When you work as a government employee, people listen to you, they respect you),” says Neelam, an alumna from “Medha”, an employability education and career development organisation based in Lucknow.
“Sarkar ghar deti hai, pension deti hai, puri family ka muft ilaaj bhi, kitni bachat hoti hai! (The government gives you a home, pension, free family healthcare – you save a lot!),” says retired government official, Mr Ansari, who wants his daughter to pursue a career in the public sector.
Akanksha, who is also an alumna from “Medha” points out, “Private mein sirf MBA ya phir achchi angrezi waale chahiye! (The private sector seeks only MBAs or English speakers!).”
Government jobs, with their standard selection process and basic undergraduate requirement, are open to all, especially those from low-income backgrounds who cannot afford advanced degrees. A government job is also said to be easier than a private one and seems to have other perks and advantages as one progresses in it. For most government employees, compensation is seniority-based, and terminations are rare.
This gives many the impression that public servants have it easy. Raj is one of the many people who feel this way. He says, “Job aisi honi chahiye ki traas na ho, aasaani se, izzat se dher sara paisa mile (A job shouldn’t bring stress; it should bring me a lot of money, easily and respectably).”
However, the harsh reality remains that these perceptions are not going away anytime soon and neither is the reality that very few aspirants secure the coveted government job. In 2012, of the 481.7 million workers in India, only 6% (29 million) were in the organised sector. Of this, two-thirds (17.5 million) were in the public sector.
According to me, one of the key drivers of this phenomenon is a lack of quality private sector jobs. There are several initiatives and policy recommendations to grow and improve the private sector.
For many young people, career guidance typically comes from two sources: teachers and family. Through employability education programmes, they can have a broader understanding of other employment opportunities. This can help increase access and exposure to private sector jobs
Another thing that can be done, is to create flexible work opportunities. This could allow students to pursue a government job while simultaneously gaining experience and skills in the private sector. Opportunities for half-day shifts, peak season hours, and long-term on-the-job apprenticeships need to be understood as that can allow students to study for a government job while building valuable experience in the private sector.
If you work with young people, encourage them to explore all potential career paths, not just the ones they’re familiar with or are told to pursue. If you are an employer, think about what you can do to make your company a better place to work. All of this can help young people understand that there is more to employment than just a government job.
About the author: Chris is the co-founder of Medha, an employability education and career development organisation based in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. Under Chris’ leadership, Medha has trained and placed over 3,000 students across 35 educational institutions, worked with 200 leading employers, and built a public-private partnership with the government of Uttar Pradesh.Prior to starting Medha, Chris was director of business development at SKS Microfinance in Hyderabad. Before SKS, Chris was director of business development at Business Development Institute, an early-stage strategic consulting firm in New York City. Chris holds a joint MBA/MA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
This article was first published here.