Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Kerala's passion for government jobs

The recent news that the Kerala Public Service Commission (KPSC) received over 12 lakh applications for its advertisement for vacancies in the lowest rank in government service, namely, the last-grade peon post, reveals a mindset of Malayalees that seems to be pretty much fixed – globalisation, liberalisation, industrialisation, whatever.

The average Keralite – and surprisingly enough, a great portion of the youth of the State, supposedly disdainful of sarkari jobs in favour of more glamorous positions in new-fangled sectors like information technology (IT) – seems to still favour government jobs over those in the private sector.

And this, at a time when the State government is working overtime to promote Kerala as a favoured IT destination. Witness the recent brouhaha over the proposal to set up Technocity, an integrated complex of IT infrastructure, residential apartments, shopping malls, hospitals, hotels, educational institutions and other support facilities, a satellite adjacent to Thiruvananthapuram, the State capital and home to Technopark, Kerala's pioneering IT park. Billed as the largest IT township in India, the Technocity, the mega-project envisages an investment of over Rs 6,000 crore and is expected to provide direct employment to over one lakh persons and indirect jobs for another four lakh.

And yet, the recent KPSC advertisement managed to woo 12,31,499 applicants. According to a report by K P M Basheer in The Hindu, this is the largest number of applications the KPSC has ever received for a job advertisement. Not surprisingly, Thiruvananthapuram district – the quintessential abode of Kerala's babudom – produced nearly 1.75 lakh applicants; followed by Kozhikode (1.25 lakh) and Ernakulam (about 1.11 lakh). Behind them came Wayanad (35,000) and Kasaragod (40,000).

According to The Hindu report, the total number of applicants for the KPSC advertisement is roughly four per cent of Kerala's population. “If you consider the fact that the applicants are in the 18-40 age group, more than 10 per cent of the young population in the State have applied for the lowly peon's position, which is a relic of the British Raj,” writes Basheer.

And even more ironically, most of the applicants are overqualified. While the minimum educational qualification for the job advertised is the ability to read and write Malayalam, the majority of applicants are those who boast college and professional degrees; there are even some M Phil and Ph D researchers. According to the 2001 population census, 63.4 per cent of Kerala's population was in the age group of 15-59, who make up the labour force. The labour force projected for 2011 is 237.30 lakh. Keralites comprise 2.6 per of the country's total labour force.

Of Kerala's labour force of 102.91 lakh workers, 16.54 lakhare agricultural labourers and 3.65 lakhwork in household industries. The organised public and private sector together employ 11.33 lakh persons, with the private sector accounting for 46.33 per cent of the employment in the organised sector.

According to the Kerala State Planning Board, of the total of 6.07 lakh employed in the public sector during December 2008, 0.63 lakh were Central government employees, 2.66 lakh State government employees, 2.56 lakh quasi-government employees and 0.26 lakh local government employees.

According to the Kerala State Planning Board's Economic Review 2009, an analysis of the sector-wise growth of employment in public and private establishments in Kerala in 2009 revealed that the highest employment is in the community, social and personnel services (44.11 per cent), followed by manufacturing (23.24), financing and business services (9.02), transport (8.51), agriculture (7.03), electricity, gas, water and sanitary services (2.45), construction (1.9) and mining and quarrying (0.436).

If the recent deluge of applications for the peon's post indicates anything, it is that in the average Keralite's mind, there is still a special place for the hallowed government job. Not only does it offer assured security of tenure and attendant perks like pensions and travel allowances (not to mention the leisure time to pursue other interests !), it is also a source for securing loans from financial institutions and employee's co-operative societies.

It seems like all the ballyhoo of “new economy” and IT jobs has not made any significant dent in the Malayalee's penchant for a safe and secure government job.


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