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Why are middle class youth losing their aspirations?


By Dr Divya Negi Ghai

We are all talking about the unemployment situation in the country and particularly in our state. We are disappointed to see the data that was published some time ago. It has been revealed in the Central Government’s National Statistical Office (NSO)’s Periodic Labour Force Survey from October 2021 to December 2021 that urban unemployment increased in Uttarakhand after the Corona epidemic. At the national level, economic and business activities may have reduced the unemployment rate rapidly, but Uttarakhand had the highest unemployment rate of 15.5 percent in the country.

The Urban Unemployment Percentage Rate is Uttarakhand-15.5, Kerala-15.2, Jammu & Kashmir-14.5, Odisha-14.1, Rajasthan-12.2, Haryana-11.5, Bihar-11.1, Chhattisgarh-11.3, Himachal-11.0, Tamil Nadu-10.2, Jharkhand- 9.6, Madhya Pradesh-9.5, Uttar Pradesh-9.4, Delhi-9.1, Assam- 9.0, Punjab-7.7, Telangana- 7.7, Andhra Pradesh-7.5, Maharashtra-7.2, West Bengal-6.5, Karnataka-5.5, Gujarat-4.5.

This is a huge problem and we all must be greatly concerned. But there is another issue which is present right before our eyes but for certain reasons we have buried our heads in the sand. This problem is of our young generation slowly losing the aspiration to do something worthwhile in life. In the short run, this problem may not be a great concern for the two extreme ends of society: the upper class or upper middle-class youth and the underprivileged. The upper-class youth are doing well in life; their families are capable of supporting them financially. Even if they do not do anything worthwhile on their own, their families will set up shop for them or sponsor their education abroad or something like that to get them settled in life. The young people belonging to such families have this confidence and so their aspirations are quite different and not necessarily around their career concerns.

The other extreme of the underprivileged youth, those who struggle to make ends meet and most of whom are school dropouts for multiple reasons, do not see much happening for them. They are not very hopeful about making a remarkable change in their lifestyle or their status in the society. They tend to believe that life will continue like this and they will have to take up those menial jobs that their parents have been doing.

There are certainly exceptions in both of these categories. There are some youngsters who decide to take up things in their control, who do not confirm to the norm or do not behave as they are expected to behave but, more or less, the average scenario in these categories still persists.

But what worries me the most is the behaviour of the youngsters belonging to the typical lower middle class families – the families who risk everything for their childrens’ education. They have great expectations from their young children that they will get educated, find their dream job, fetch a very good salary and then all of their financial hardships will be over. They are the families that have sent their children to do professional or degree courses in government and private colleges on educational loans. As soon as the young person starts getting a salary, they are supposed to pay off that loan. Even if they have not taken the loan, the college fee that the parents are paying is a huge chunk of their annual income and they are making several sacrifices to pay it. They are sending their offspring to college to do an undergraduate course which they complete and then take up a masters’ programme, without even knowing why they are doing it. For several of them the sole reason is to save themselves from family pressure for a few more years.

I have been teaching for more than 15 years. In all these years, I have come across very few students who know actually know why are they doing those courses and where do they want to land up after this. Those who know that, eventually reach there. But there is a vast majority of youngsters who are seemingly on a paid vacation sponsored by their parents and their sole purpose in life is to find a love match in the college, a bahu or damaad for their parents and then have a great time with them. They have no idea why are they whiling away their time like this.

When asked about their future plans, the most common response is that they will be preparing for government jobs after graduation and will join a coaching institute for the same. Then the parents will pay the fee of the coaching institute too and wait for a miracle to happen. Preparing for government exams is a very difficult task that needs tremendous hard work and absolute focus – these cannot be cleared by fluke. If not this, then these young graduates will join some private job where they will get a meagre salary of 10-15k that will hardly be enough to survive in another city on their own.

The majority of students who are in colleges right now belong to this group. They don’t know the purpose of their education or their life and the sad thing is that they are not even bothered. We cannot let it continue like this. We need to catch them young in school to work upon their self-awareness, to show them the options of various professions they can join as per their skill set. They need to be counselled that being a graduate or a post graduate will contribute to their life if they actually learn something during the course that they can actually apply in their chosen professions. Along with this we need to counsel the parents, too, who are hellbent on getting degrees for their young ones.

We as a society need to ponder over this and start making efforts to change this scenario before it is too late and our so called demographic dividend becomes our demographic NPA.

(Dr Divya Negi Ghai is an academician by profession, writer by choice and youth activist at heart. She has been teaching graduate and post graduate courses for more than a decade and works for youth through her NGO Youth Rocks Foundation.)