It is customary to talk ‘jobs’ in election season, more so when the incumbent government has beguiled large segments of the youth with its job talk. The promise was of 10 million new jobs every year and, ironically, the labour ministry’s own data has exposed the vacuousness of the promise, with virtually nothing by way of “real-time data on job creation” that the government claims.

Meanwhile, reports in the media that the BJP’s representatives on the estimates committee report on GDP, headed by Murli Manohar Joshi ~ no longer popular with the government ~ tried to put spokes in the wheel of the committee seeking to release the data, left the government red-faced.

Poll-time shenanigans of political parties aside, there is a very serious issue with the spectre of looming unemployment that will devastate the economy, never mind which party comes to power, because this time around the unemployed masses will come from the countryside.

Agriculture has, in some form or the other, engaged around seventy per cent of the working population ~ albeit in a state of under-employment or disguised unemployment ~ managing to keep a lid on the restless jobless cauldron. Over the past four years though the lid has been thrown off and falling farm incomes can no longer pretend to pay for non-existent jobs or even to feed the hungry mouths.

Nor do opportunities in cities offer much succour for a large segment of job-seekers who are quite unskilled for today’s job requirements. The numbers frighten; the youth currently account for around 35 per cent of the population and the Indian workforce will increase to 600 million by 2022, from around 473 million at present.

Even as the government tries to delude itself about its performance on the job creation front, the formal sector shows that nearly a fourth of the net payroll increases in this space features job-switchers, as the September data released by the Employees’ Provident Fund Organization confirmed.

Undaunted, the Prime Minister used these numbers during the debate on the no-confidence motion, insisting that he had delivered on the annual 10 million jobs promise. Earlier, the Reserve Bank of India backed research by KLEMS India exposed the dropping employment trend over 2014 and 2015, the worst fall coming in the farm sector.

Worse still, women are consistently short-changed in this ecosystem without paid work especially in the farm sector. In any event, there are just 27.4 per cent women, compared to 75.5 per cent men (2015- 16 figures), in the workforce. The corporate sector offers gloom in equal measure.

Randstad India projects a 70,000-job loss through March 2019, on the heels of another lakh jobs lost in 2017, courtesy advent of disruptive technologies. These may or not be regained once the effect of the disruption eases but the disruption in the lives of unemployed India will be cataclysmic, even threatening to tear society asunder. For the time being though it will wipe the smug smile off the ruling dispensation’s face.