Mumbai: With general elections in India just around the corner, the debate on employment growth is reaching fever pitch. In the absence of regular and credible employment statistics, perceptions about job creation will be critical for the election outcome. Among the urban youth at least, these perceptions may be changing but the majority remain concerned about jobs.

According to survey data collected by market researcher YouGov in collaboration with Mint, more urban youth believe it is easier to find a job now compared to six months ago. About 43% of the Gen-Z (19- to 22-year-olds) and 45% of younger millennials (23- to 29-year-olds) think it is "somewhat" to "extremely" easy to find a job nowadays.

This is a marked improvement from six months ago when the percentage of respondents saying it is easy to find a job was just 21% among the Gen-Z and 27% among younger millennials. The outlook among the older millennials (30- to 38-year-olds) and Gen-X cohort (39- to 54-year-olds) also shows a similar improvement over the same period.

India's urban youth have become more optimistic about the job market.
India's urban youth have become more optimistic about the job market. (Ahmed Raza Khan/Mint)

These results are from the YouGov-Mint Millennial Survey conducted in January with an online poll of over 5,000 respondents across age groups spread over 180 cities. The apparent improvement in job prospects is also corroborated by the consumer confidence surveys conducted by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

In the December quarter, RBI data shows a marginal improvement in the urban population expectation and perceptions on employment. There was an increase in the number of respondents who said employment prospects improved compared with those who said employment prospects worsened. However, despite these improvements, urban youth who say it is currently difficult to find a job remain the majority.

The pessimism is also prevalent across industries. The survey shows that, barring financial services and information technology industries, a majority of employees across sectors, including business services and manufacturing, believe it is difficult to find fresh jobs.

Barring financial services and IT industries, a majority across sectors say it's hard to find a job.
Barring financial services and IT industries, a majority across sectors say it's hard to find a job. (Ahmed Raza Khan/Mint)

Unsurprisingly, more women compared to men say it is harder to find jobs, reiterating the persistent gender imbalances in India’s labour market.

Women find it slightly more difficult to find a job than men do.
Women find it slightly more difficult to find a job than men do. (Ahmed Raza Khan/Mint)

Across genders, this pessimism is concentrated largely among younger respondents (Gen-Z and younger millennials). Not only are these youngsters more pessimistic about finding jobs, they are also more dissatisfied with their existing jobs.

The survey showed that 16% of Gen-Zers and 12% of younger millennials, compared to 8% of older millennials (30- to 38-year-olds) and Gen-Xers (39- to 54-year-olds), said they weren't satisfied with their jobs and would move as soon as they got a better offer.

Younger cohorts are also more dissatisfied with their current jobs.
Younger cohorts are also more dissatisfied with their current jobs. (Ahmed Raza Khan/Mint)

Even among those who said they were satisfied in their current job, an overwhelming majority of younger millennials said they would move for better roles or better pay.

While this could simply be because entry-level jobs are likely to offer less pay and work satisfaction, an earlier YouGov-Mint survey revealed it could be a result of mismatched expectations. Salary expectations of the younger generation are higher than actual salaries paid out to their peers with similar qualifications.

Whether urban youth’s perceptions about the job market is warranted is difficult to say without credible employment data. But either way, their perceptions will have important implications for Elections 2019.

For the Gen-Z and many younger millennials, this will be their first elections and job-related concerns could influence their vote.

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