Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America, won his re-election earlier this month. Many experts say he was helped by providence when the monthly announcement on unemployment in October by the Department of Labor showed a slight dip. This downward trend translated into a significant upward trend in his support just before the voting. Employment statistics are a big deal in the US, having the power to not just move stock market indices but also help or hinder elections of the presidents of one of the richest countries in the world with high employment levels. Jobs created or lost are precious and celebrated as a sign of an improving or a stagnating economy.
India needs to create 200 million jobs in the next 15 years to reduce the high rate of unemployment (or under-employment). Many of these jobs have to be in the manufacturing sector in order to absorb the migration of lower skilled people coming out of the agriculture sector. As a developing country, job creation is the only sustainable route to improving the well-being of the citizens and should be our top-most national priority. However, in India, new jobs created or lost are neither tracked closely nor make the headlines of our national media. Politicians perhaps do not believe they lose or win their elections on this score. That is why no one seriously questions why we have jobless growth, or why jobs that are getting created are mostly in the unorganised sector or for contract workers. We have also become immune to repeated stories of large job-creating investments stalled for one reason or the other. No one mourns these lost jobs. Perhaps because the number of new jobs required is so large that any progress made or not made pales in comparison.
Clearly, the US has internalised the importance of job creation, making it the top priority of its leaders despite being a highly developed economy with a level of unemployment much lower than that of a developing country like India. Analysts follow it diligently and cut and dice the employment numbers every which way to see what patterns are emerging. Their leaders talk about bringing back jobs lost to low-cost manufacturing hubs abroad, and emphasise the importance of good old-fashioned industrial policy to turn this into reality. Their states compete with each other to attract investments. They offer the building blocks—developed land, sufficient power