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It's raining job promises in Odisha

May 13, 2024 14:05 IST

Despite declining by three percentage points in 2022-23 (FY23) compared to FY19, Odisha’s unemployment rate remains higher than the average in India.

IMAGE: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at an election rally in Ganjam, May 10, 2024. 5T and Nabin Odisha chairman VK Pandian is to his right. Photograph: ANI Photo

Political parties in Odisha are vying with one another in getting job promises written into their election manifestos as the state’s unemployment rate has remained higher than the national average for the past six years.

Ahead of the simultaneous assembly and Lok Sabha elections today, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday announced 200,000 government jobs in the next five years if his Biju Janata Dal (BJD) returned to power for a sixth term.


The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has promised 350,000 employment opportunities, including filling up 150,000 vacant government posts, by 2029.

The Congress, on the other hand, has vowed to provide jobs for 500,000 youths and offer an unemployment allowance of Rs 3,000 per month.

Despite declining by three percentage points in 2022-23 (FY23) compared to FY19, Odisha’s unemployment rate remains higher than the average in India, shows the data from the annual Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), released in October.

The rate of unemployment for those aged 15 years and above was 7 per cent in Odisha in FY19. It dipped to 3.9 per cent in FY23. In the same period, India’s unemployment rate decreased from 5.8 per cent to 3.2 per cent.

Moreover, Odisha’s well-educated are increasingly finding themselves without a job. The state’s graduates and post-graduates are more likely to be unemployed as against those without schooling or a primary education. Though a similar trend is also reflected in Indian graduates and postgraduates overall, the rate of unemployment is higher in Odisha, where a majority of the workers are self-employed. Just 13 per cent of the state’s workers are in regular employment, compared to 21 per cent of Indian workers.

Analysts attribute this partly to more than 7 million women engaged in the Mission Shakti scheme, which has created over 600,000 self-help groups. The BJD has promised to raise the interest-free loan to Rs 15 lakh. It has also vowed to increase the interest-free loan to Rs 2 lakh given to those between 18 and 35 years in rural areas to start businesses under the Swayam scheme, launched in February.

In 2020, Patnaik had launched a Rs 17,000 crore livelihood intervention plan to generate employment in rural areas. Under the Odisha Skill Development Authority, the state has tied up with some e-commerce companies to address the unemployment situation.

Odisha also ranked low on the International Labour Organization’s employment condition index in its India Employment Report 2024 report -- 21st among the 22 states evaluated based on their quality and conditions of employment.

According to the Election Commission of India, voters in the age group 18-29 account for 23 per cent of the electorate in the state.

According to a pre-poll survey by the Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), unemployment remains one of the key concerns for voters in India during these elections. Sixty-two per cent of the respondents said securing employment had become increasingly challenging.

The Opposition has capitalised on this issue. And Prime Minister Narendra Modi attacked the ruling BJD for failing to provide jobs to the youth in Odisha, forcing them to migrate to other states. While the BJP had asked the BJD to come up with a white paper on unemployment, the Congress said over 225,000 posts were vacant in the state.

Satyaranjan Bhoi, a postgraduate who is preparing for competitive examinations, flagged the delayed recruitment process and corruption in the government-job sector.

According to a report tabled in the assembly in November last year, 44 retired officials have been reappointed in the information and public relations department and 50 in the skill development and technical education department.

Subash Chandra Patra, a retired state government college principal, said the state had almost exhausted the vacancies, but recruitment was usually held up due to legal cases.

He, however, said the government should clarify the definition of jobs. “Political parties are promising employment opportunities, but the concept of jobs is very hedgy. Can orientation programmes, such as the Agniveer scheme, be called a job?”

Economist Rajib Sekhar Sahoo agreed the ruling party hadn’t been successful in generating large employment and urged that the new government focus on skill development. “Going by the promises by the political parties, it seems job creation will be far better than what it will be now, and this will be driven by the non-traditional sector,” Sahoo said.

Ramani Ranjan Mohapatra and Samreen Wani in Bhunaneswar
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