The crises of Underemployment and the way out

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To live one must work and to work the work should be available. However, in the contemporary world of capitalistic economy work is not available to everyone. Further in this world materialism is at its zenith and everything is weighed in material terms. There is a monetary value associated with all endeavors of human life and the entities, enterprises, persons and activities which seem valueless are discarded, given up or dumped. Amidst all this the people who fail to find work are rendered valueless and are subject to miserable conditions of life. Moreover, this state of affairs provides an opportunity to the employers to exploit the labor class and they never hesitate to exploit them. The exploitation is mostly done by giving very meager wages to people against a work. This condition of working people falls within underemployment. Hence, there are people in the world who are unemployed, those who fail to find any work, and there are those who are underemployed. 

Here we are concerned with underemployment which means, among other connotations, a state where a person is employed but the dues that accrue out of that employment are not sufficient enough to run the life & family of the person properly. In most of the cases the person’s financial condition even falls below the subsistence level. The problem of underemployment is more pronounced in our part of the world, including the State of Jammu & Kashmir. We have a long list of underemployed people, especially in the government sector, which include the SPOs, Need Based Casual Labours, Daily-wagers, Contractuals, National Youth Corps and all others. All these people are living the lives of misery among all extravaganzas around them. They have been thrown into a state of sordid penury by the collective act of our society plus by the policy making apparatus of the government.

The gravity of underemployment, in Jammu & Kashmir, can be gauged by comparing it with the issue of unemployment. While as the number of qualified unemployed people is fast approaching to a million, the number of underemployed is in lakhs. The latter is by no means an ordinary figure. In unemployment a person fails to get any work so as to earn some returns to run his/her family efficiently and in underemployment the person, though employed, gets so meager returns that there is hardly any difference between the conditions of unemployed and underemployed. The unemployed person remains in a state of dependence and so is the case with the underemployed one. The condition of the underemployed person becomes worse than the unemployed when that person fails to appeal the human considerations of compassion, care, help and generosity. An unemployed person may fall prey to mendicancy, in adverse conditions, and in this state the person may succeed in arousing some human traits to get something out of it but if an underemployed person goes only for borrowing the person feels ridiculed and even gets ridiculed, the reason his/her employment which actually is no employment. As such, the severity and magnitude of the problem of underemployment is alarming for the State and is on the way to turn into a crisis, if it is not already a crisis. 

Another big problem unique to underemployment is the state of indecisiveness thrust upon the underemployed, where the person is unable to decide whether to give up the job or continue with it. There is the enticement of regularization and possibility of being treated at par with the employees in the substantive category after some time and there is that uncertainty of whether this will be done or not.  Additionally, the underemployed person earns less than what the scavengers and ordinary labors earn. The situation becomes even grimmer when this meager amount is not paid in time. They are made to wait for months and months together to get their dues. 

This situation has disturbed the peaceful ambience of the families of the underemployed people of this State and made their future prospects bleak and uncertain. It has even impacted the mental health of these people adversely. They always remain stressful which with the passage of time changes into anxiety and other mental disorders. While the employees in the substantive capacity are paid satisfactory amounts for a work but for the same work the underemployed person is paid too less an amount. This is in flagrant violation of the Directive Principles of State Policy of the Indian Constitution, of equal pay for equal work (Article 39-d) and to secure a living wage, a decent standard of life and social and cultural opportunities for all the workers (Article 43). Therefore, the issue of underemployment is a serious problem in the State of Jammu & Kashmir.  Every day there are protests by the underemployed people of the State against the government. This has disturbed the work culture in the government offices besides creating a situation of disorder and issues of law and order in the state. In fact these people have been left with no option but to go for protests, when nobody seems listening to their genuine demands. 

 The causes of underemployment include the higher rate of unemployment which forces the qualified & unemployed youth of the state to work on compromised rates and on temporary basis. The primacy that is given to government jobs in this State and the social recognition of underpaid, contractual and temporary government jobs, as against the jobs in private sector, is the other reason associated with the prevalence of underemployment in the State. This collective attitude has emboldened the government to frame those policies where people can be engaged on meager salaries to run the government and affairs of the government. Governments after all want economy in their functioning. The financial condition of the state, which demands some austerity to be exhibited in the government functioning, is yet another reason for the formulation of the policies which promote underemployment. So the fault lies with the people and it lies with the government of the State.

Therefore, the government has a great responsibility in every area and affair of life and so is the case in dealing with the problem of underemployment in the State. However, the governments are what the people make them and so the responsibility of the people to help the government in dealing with this problem cannot be denied. This fact makes it obligatory upon the people of the State to change their attitude towards government jobs. It is the changed attitude of the people which could go a long way in solving the problem. The policies and programs of the government will prove more effective with this change in the attitude of the people. Also it could discourage the government to formulate those policies which promote underemployment in the State. 

In nutshell the practice of underemployment should cease to be resorted to, forthwith. There must be no increase in the number of already underemployed people in the State. This can be ensured by the government by framing adequate policies and programs to create more and more decent job opportunities in association with the private sector.  All the vacant posts in the government sector, for which there are adequate budgetary provisions available, should be filled without wasting too much of time.  As for as the already underemployed people are concerned; they should be appointed on the substantive posts, if not in one go but in a phased manner at least.  They should be made aware about the financial conditions of the state and other compulsions, so that they will not resort to frequent protests to disturb the normal functioning of the government, with the assurance that their case will be take on priority.  It is only by taking them into confidence that a viable solution to this problem could be found.  

To conclude this it is worth saying that as long as there is will there surely is a way. There is no issue, problem or crisis which can’t be solved when parties involved are sincere towards solving it. The problem at hand is such where we all are parties and we all have to work collectively and concurrently to end the pathetic state of underemployment. The current scenario; where there is a mad race for getting any type of government job, Daily Wage, Need Based, Contractual etc; should change to a situation where if a job leading to underemployment is advertised, nobody applies for that. There should reach that ideal state where each person is paid as per that persons work, there should be no discrimination, there should be no violation of the fundamental rights or the Directive Principles of State Policy and there should be no preference to an underpaid government servant over a well paid and hard working person in the private sector or the one who is self employed. The crisis of underemployment should change into the assurance of progress for all without any discrimination. With collective efforts and creative policy decisions, innovative implementation mechanism and some good wishes the day will surely come. 

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