Can job fairs solve India’s employment mismatch?

Government plays the role of a matchmaker in a bid to bring jobless youth and companies under a single platform


Labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya. The ministry plans to conduct one job fair every month and has approached industry partners. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint
Labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya. The ministry plans to conduct one job fair every month and has approached industry partners. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

Before you enter the National Institute of Career Services (NICS) grounds in Noida, leave your notions of job selection behind.

Rows of job aspirants, mostly dressed in western formals, stand in the sun. Executives from three-dozen companies—Reliance Retail, Paytm, Ola, Muthoot Group, Teamlease Services and Tech Mahindra are some of them—are in small cubicles, handing out forms and registration numbers and asking some to go to a nearby hostel building for a written or oral test.

Some 11,000 job-seekers from several neighbouring states have landed up at the NICS as companies try to shortlist candidates for both blue-collar and white-collar jobs.

“You are at a Mega Job Fair,” says a large signboard at the venue.

India has a real job problem on hand. Twelve million young men and women are entering the job market every year, but there simply aren’t enough jobs for them. On the other hand, companies say job-market entrants are not employment-ready, said Lata Gautam, director, NICS, and officer on special duty at the labour ministry.

NICS is a training institute of the labour ministry.

The job fair in Noida, held on 20 July, was the first of several that the labour ministry plans to organize across the country to fix the employment mismatch on a “mission mode”.

“You see jobs being added... at the same time, you see the mismatch from both employers’ and employees’ side,” said Gautam.

The recruitment figures after the job fair show up the extent of the crisis. Some 11,000 candidates turned up for nearly 5,000 vacancies, while only 640 were shortlisted.

“I came to the fair seeking a Java software developer profile in a tech company, but could not find one that suits me,” said Neha Singh Chandel, almost dejected after spending a day at the venue. Chandel, who travelled from Meerut, is a fresh engineering graduate, but is yet to land a job and had to return without an offer letter.

“While companies are talking about the lack of job-readiness among candidates, they are not even disclosing the profiles on offer or the salary structure. It is evident that there is confusion,” she added.

Ruchira Tripathi from Faridabad complained about how she waited for her interview with a consulting company that never turned up. She too spoke of the “ambiguity in the entire selection process” as the company display boards and the profile requirements mentioned during the registration process did not match for several of her friends.

In contrast, Anshuman Singh, deputy manager (talent acquisition) at business process outsourcing (BPO) firm Teleperformance India, highlighted the problem faced by companies—the lack of job-ready candidates.

Singh said even after interviewing 15 candidates, he could not zero in on one. “We were looking for someone who is fluent in English and can cater to customer services; till now, I have not found even one person whose skills fulfil our requirements,” he said.

And this is why the labour ministry argues it has taken up job fairs for better matching of employers and employees. It plans to conduct one job fair every month, with the next one in Hyderabad, and has approached industry partners.

For the July fair, it partnered with industry lobby Confederation of Indian Industry, Indian Staffing Federation, an association of top head hunters, and Tech Mahindra’s employment assistance wing Saral Rozgar, among others.

“We are trying to be match-makers in jobs space,” labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya said, adding that the government had renewed efforts to help young people find employment, a tough task in the face of sluggish jobs growth.

In 2014, eight key manufacturing and export-oriented sectors, including IT/BPO, textiles and automobiles, created less than half a million (421,000) jobs, and in 2015, the numbers were less than 200,000, according to the labour bureau, an arm of the labour ministry.

Poor employment generation in the face of better economic growth is a problem that dates back decades.

In 1991, total employment in the organized sector was 26.73 million and in 2012, it was 29.58 million, Mint reported on 25 July. That’s a gain of just 2.85 million jobs in 21 years, but it has to be seen in the light of several factors like hiring against retirement, contractual hiring vs. permanent hiring and slowdown of public sector undertakings.

Still, given the huge number of young people joining the Indian job market, the increase in organized-sector jobs is just a fraction of the requirement.

“Generating adequate job opportunities has been the first priority of the government,” Dattatreya said, reiterating what the National Democratic Alliance government has been saying for the past two years.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has spoken of the need for “job creators” as against “job seekers”. In the past one year, the government has announced several incentive packages for companies for both skill training as well as creating new jobs to improve the employment scenario.

The Union cabinet approved an outlay of Rs.22,000 crore in July alone for the promotion of apprenticeship and skill training. Most of this money will go to companies for effective implementation of the initiatives.

“The incentives to companies, in a way, are a medium-term plan for improving job creation, as the government realizes that the number of people entering the labour market far outnumbers the number of jobs on offer. Till the time labour-intensive sectors like manufacturing picks up, the problem cannot be solved effectively,” said Santanu Paul, chief executive of Talent Sprint, a skill-training company.

A job fair may not be much, though some believe it is a good first step. The government and private collaboration will create a lot of opportunities for job-seekers, said Rituparna Chakraborty, president of Indian Staffing Federation.

Bringing job candidates, employers, counsellors and trainers under one roof and proving guidance on self-employment and entrepreneurship is the way forward, she said.

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