Bihar Polls: Parties beat the employment drum for votes

Bihar Polls: In bid for votes, parties beat the employment drum

With jobs sops, parties are trying to lure voters in Bihar where unemployment rate is nearly double of all-India average

 RJD leader Tejashwi Prasad Yadav addresses a gathering during an election rally for the upcoming Bihar assembly elections, in Munger district, Saturday, Oct, 24, 2020. Credit: PTI Photo

As campaigning for the first phase of Bihar Assembly elections comes to an end, it is clearer that the BJP, as well as the RJD-led Mahagathbandhan, have decided to beat the employment drum for votes. 

The RJD’s promise of 10 lakh government jobs in the very first cabinet of the alliance government if voted to power and the BJP’s counter offer to generate nearly double (19 lakh) the employment hint at Bihar’s unemployment crisis. The gravity of the crisis is evident given that the BJP’s promise came after JD(U) chief and current Bihar CM Nitish Kumar questioned how the RJD would generate the funds to create so many jobs. 

Also read — 10 lakh jobs, not tall promises, is Bihar's need of the hour: Tejashwi Yadav takes a dig at NDA

Joblessness in Bihar

At 10.2 per cent, Bihar's unemployment rate is nearly double of India's overall average of 5.8 per cent, according to the 2018-19 Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), the official source of employment statistics in India. Unemployment in the state governed by Nitish Kumar's JD(U)-led NDA has worsened over the past year. The unemployment rate rose by three percentage points during the year ended June 2019, according to government data. 

Data from CMIE, a private research house, that was released in June showed that unemployment in Bihar was the highest among all large states in the country, with smaller eastern states of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh showing higher joblessness.

Lack of quality jobs

Another factor that is key to understanding the unemployment crisis in Bihar is the quality of jobs that are generated in the state. Most people in Bihar don’t have a salaried job. The percentage is as low as 10.4 per cent, according to the 2018-19 PLFS.

Under Nitish Kumar’s governance, the share of workers with a salaried job has improved from 4.2 per cent in 2004-05. However, it still fares poorly when compared to other states. 

During the campaign, the Opposition used these issues to target the Nitish Kumar-led government. Releasing RJD's manifesto for the Bihar polls in Patna on October 24, Tejashwi said there was a difference between earning and employment. He explained that there are employment opportunities for teachers, professors, junior engineers, doctors, nurses lab technicians.

Also Read: Nitish Kumar out of BJP's posters in Bihar ahead of Assembly polls

He also took a dig at the NDA's free Covid-19 vaccine and 19 lakh jobs promise in their manifesto for Bihar Assembly elections 2020, saying that he will not promise one crore jobs.

“I am promising 10 lakh jobs. I could have also promised one crore jobs just for the sake of the promise. But I am not doing that because this (10 lakh jobs) will become a reality in the first meeting of the Cabinet,” Tejashwi said. 

Migrant workers' woes

Lack of job opportunities in the state has forced many to migrate to other cities for employment. Bihar has the highest out-migration rates of all states in India. 

Owing to the large number of people working outside Bihar, its economy has been overly reliant on migrant remittances. A World Bank paper published in 2018 indicated that this dependence could be as high as 35 per cent of the state’s gross state domestic product (GSDP). 

Unemployment has also taken a centre stage in this election as lakhs of migrants walked miles to return to their native places amid a nation-wide lockdown forced due to the onset of Covid-19 pandemic. Estimates suggest nearly 32 lakh migrants returned to Bihar, with many realising that there is still little opportunity for them.