Jobs, immigration top issues in opinion poll

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 22

The high rate of migration out of Punjab in recent years is ample evidence that the state’s youth no longer see education as a path to employment and future security. With an agrarian economy in crisis, no major industrial or trade drivers and a lack of a nurturing entrepreneurial ecosystem, young people from Amritsar, once the hub of the textile and steel industries, are emigrating abroad at a worrying pace.

Worrying numbers

According to the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) conducted by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI), the estimated unemployment rate among individuals aged 15 years and above in Punjab stands at 6.2 per cent, 6.4 per cent and 6.1 per cent for 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23, respectively. Punjab and Haryana share third position in the list of states with the highest unemployment rate nationally.

As the Rajya Sabha elections draw nearer, all major candidates are trying to woo the young voters with youth-centric development initiatives and campaign promises. Amritsar has 1.9 million registered voters, of whom 47 percent are below the age of 35. There are 50,000 first-time voters in Amritsar this time. Improved employment and higher education facilities are the most important issues considered by young voters ahead of their June 1 vote.

“Despite the presence of the Indian Institute of Management, State University and several other reputed educational institutions, one of the biggest disadvantages faced by graduates and postgraduates here is the lack of skills required to land a job in a corporate setting. Most are unemployable as they lack even basic skills,” said Rishabh Mahajan, a young entrepreneur who runs Statusbrew, a digital marketing and management solutions startup in the city. He organises workshops to upskill university and college graduates to make them marketable. While he agrees that there is huge potential among Amritsar’s youth, he adds that there is little political participation to create a localised job market.

Prabhleen Singh, 28, a business management developer at a logistics company, said the lack of integration between government agencies and industry leaders for the city’s young entrepreneurs has led most educated and skilled youth to look for work elsewhere. “Punjab is yet to have cities like Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Mumbai where entrepreneurial and industry clusters have been created to create jobs. Also, industry in Punjab is at a disadvantage,” he said. His hope from political representatives is that startups, leaders and government agencies will work towards building an integrated ecosystem that can bring together and enable job creation.

As for rural youth, drug addiction and the lure of foreign countries are major concerns, calling for social as well as political intervention. “All political leaders promise to solve the drug problem, but the problem remains the same no matter which party is in power. Unemployment, lack of education and resources, coupled with drug addiction, have caught rural youth in a vicious cycle. If the agricultural economy is strengthened with investments and innovations, the situation may improve,” said Navdeep Singh, 31, a young farmer from Majita.

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