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India: where a million new jobs a month isn’t enough

Laborers stand on the side of the road hoping to pick up work on April 9, 2019 in Bhopal, India. Stringer/Getty Images

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India’s young, smart and vibrant workforce is a great resource. But the economy isn’t generating enough jobs to lift living standards.

India needs to create one million jobs every month just to absorb new workers, and better job opportunities have become a top priority for voters as the current government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi fights for re-election.

Underemployment — where workers want to work more hours but can’t find a full-time job — is an even bigger problem.

Anand Kumar came to Delhi as an impoverished child and mopped floors to survive.

Anand Kumar thought a college degree would help him secure a government job. (Photo: BBC)

Now 28 years old, he worked full-time while studying in the hope that his hard work would lead to a coveted job in the Indian government.

But a lack of opportunity means he’s currently working as a door-to-door salesman.

Kumar, who is his family’s sole earner, sells small business owners the trucks his employer makes.

“Private companies want you to work six days a week for very little money. They’re squeezing you for profits. A government job is more secure,” Kumar said.

Searching for security

Across India, millions of workers like Kumar are struggling to find well-paid, secure jobs.

But despite the lack of job opportunities, Anand says he’ll still vote for India’s ruling party, the BJP.

“In my village we used to say ‘wow!’ when electricity came a few hours a day — it was so rare. Now, we have electricity 18 hours a day. We need to give the BJP more time to achieve what they promised,” he said.

“I feel disappointed that I’ve got a job paying only half of what I want. But when I look back on my circumstances in childhood I think, well, things are still better.”

Click the audio player above to hear the full story.

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