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Why 2.8 Crore Indians Applied for 90,000 Jobs in Indian Railways

Apr 16, 2018


The Indian Railways recently got 2.8 crore applications for around 90,000 jobs it had advertised for.

This basically means that the ratio of number of applicants to the number of jobs stands at 311:1. Further, it means that 18.7% of India's youth workforce (people in the age group 18-29) applied for it. Or to put it a little more simplistically, every one in five individuals who are a part of India's youth workforce, applied for these jobs.

This is even without taking any education qualifications into account. If we do that (i.e. people who have at least passed the tenth standard or some such parameter), the proportion of India's youth workforce which applied for these jobs in the Indian Railways would go up even further.

If this is not an indication of India's massive jobs crisis, we don't know what is.

The argument being offered against this is that just because someone has applied for a government job, does not mean he or she is unemployed. Of course, this is a fair argument, but an incomplete one. Allow me to explain.

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Let's us look at Table 1, a table we have used multiple times before.

Table 1:

Table 1 clearly tells us that only 60.6% of India's workforce which is looking for a job all through the year, is able to find one. So, yes Indians may not be unemployed, but they are terribly underemployed. Hence, nearly 40% of Indians looking for a job all through the year are unable to find one. Or two in five Indians who are looking for a job all through the year are unable to find one.

Further, this underemployment translates into low levels of income, as can be seen from Table 2.

Table 2: Self-employed/Regular wage salaried/Contract/Casual Workers
according to Average Monthly Earnings (in %)

Table 2 shows us the income levels of India's workforce. As far as the self-employed and the contract workers are concerned, nearly two-thirds of them make up to Rs 7,500 per month or Rs 90,000 per year. In case of contract workers, more than 84% of contract workers earn up to Rs 7,500 per month or Rs 90,000 per year.

The per capita income in 2015-2016 was at Rs 1.07 lakh. This basically means that a bulk of India's non-salaried workforce, earns a significantly lower income than the per capita income.

The non-salaried workforce works largely in the informal sector, which forms a bulk of India's economy (as high as 92% as per one estimate). As the Economic Survey of 2015-2016, points out: "By most measures, informal sector jobs are much worse than formal sector ones-wages are, on average, more than 20 times higher in the formal sector."

Given these low levels of income primarily because of huge underemployment, so many people tend to apply for government jobs in general, and the recent vacancies in Indian Railways are no exception to this. People are looking for a regular and stable source of monthly income. They want to get rid of the irregularity of payment that they have to regularly deal with in the informal sector.

The Indian government is a good paymaster, especially at lower levels. As the Report of the Seventh Pay Commission points out: "To obtain a comparative picture of the salaries paid in the government with that in the private sector enterprises the Commission engaged the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad to conduct a study. According to the study the total emoluments of a General Helper, who is the lowest ranked employee in the government is Rs 22,579, more than two times the emoluments of a General Helper in the private sector organizations surveyed at Rs 8,000-9,500."

Hence, the IIM Ahmedabad study "on comparing job families between the government and private/public sector has brought out the fact lower levels salaries are much lower in the private sector as compared to government jobs."

In this scenario, it isn't surprising that so many people apply for government jobs in India. The employment opportunities in the informal sector are irregular and simply don't pay enough. India's huge underemployment gets reflected in the number of people applying for government jobs.

And at the end of the day, underemployment is also a representation of unemployment and the huge jobs crisis that India is facing. There simply aren't enough jobs/employment opportunities which will keep individuals occupied for the full year, going around, for everyone who is a part of India's burgeoning workforce.

Indeed, that is something to worry about. And what is even worrying is that the Modi government is not worrying about this huge issue.

Vivek Kaul
Vivek Kaul
Editor, Vivek Kaul's Diary

Postscript: Dear Reader, you must be wondering why are we still using 2015-2016 data even in 2018-2019. The Labour Bureau carried out six household-based Annual Employment-Unemployment Surveys (EUS) between 2010 and 2016. Of these, reports of five rounds have been released till date. The last report was released in September 2016. The question is, why has the report for the sixth round of the Survey not been released till date.

Recently, in an answer to a question raised in Parliament, the government said, "On the recommendations of the Task Force on Employment, however, this survey has been discontinued." Basically, a survey that brought bad news in the form of huge underemployment that India has been facing, has been discontinued, and then the government goes around talking about lack of data.

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Vivek Kaul is the Editor of the Diary. He is the author of the Easy Money trilogy. The books were bestsellers on Amazon. His latest book is India's Big Government - The Intrusive State and How It is Hurting Us.

Disclaimer: The views mentioned above are of the author only. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Equitymaster do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader. Please read the detailed Terms of Use of the web site.

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10 Responses to "Why 2.8 Crore Indians Applied for 90,000 Jobs in Indian Railways"


Oct 10, 2018

Today youth mostly unemployment and private sector has huge workload. so that why youth try to get job in government jobs


Actually I need to know what is base of information on this Articles, as per market there has mostly unemployment and some employment happens but most of the corporate company they tried to avoid this, so only govt job having this factors. and else visit another govt site for searching and updating govt job alert now visit Indian Government Jobs its must be helpful for us quickly visit on this site and get more alert.


Gulshan Lal Malhotra

Apr 17, 2018

I am following your articles. When i See population as a whole i find there are people who do not work even for an hour per day. Another group called as beggars do work for 4 to 8 hours a day sometimes 12 hours a day, should i call it fruitful working, giving something to the society. similarly part of the group of SADHUS, thieves, smugglers, etc etc.
Even those who are working do they work and exert to their full capacity.
Does our politicians justify their work for the society.
I have raised this point only for one's thinking.
I will like to comment on Nalin Khanna's view- Employing in govt service one will be secured to get money without working for the employer, employer also do not want to bother to ask for work. I will put these nonworking employee as useless part of the population.

Like (3)


Apr 16, 2018

Vivek Kaul is excellent at crying hoarse about India's job crisis while offering no solution to resolve it. He is a doomsday prophet where nothing good ever happens in India, certainly not under the Modi regime.

The reason why people stampede to somehow secure any Government job is not just the very high salaries given to lower level staff (Grade 4 and 3) where qualifications are not as important as caste ! These jobs are 1000% secure with solid trade union protection that enables such employees to shirk work, face absolutely no penalty for being utterly callous in dealing with the public and where "performance" is a sick joke. Not to speak of guaranteed yearly increments, generous medical and retirement benefits and a further bonanza from 10 year Pay Commission mandated across the board elevation of salary scales of all Grades.

Government salaries deliberately ignore demand supply realities. The private sector is conscious of this reality and pays salaries only according to what the market demand is for a particular skill no more no less. And it cannot guarantee cast iron job security, particularly when the private company can go under for any number of reasons. Adding to the agony of the private sector, those which employ more than 100 or 300 workers (depending on the State where the company operates) cannot lay off workers in bad times as Government permission is required for such closure / layoff, which is seldom given. In fact State Governments clearly state that companies cannot claim losses as the reason for such closure / layoffs !!

Vivek Kaul should comment on these realities rather than merely pontificate about India's joblessness.

Like (3)


Apr 16, 2018

"Modi government is not worrying about this huge issue." and why should it? after all it is winning elections...

Like (3)

Ramesh Kumar

Apr 16, 2018

The lure of government service is very large. There are inherent advantages of a Government job as the employees need not work and from day one they start earning pension and if they are asked to do some work they can get extra money from the beneficiaries. If the Railways was a private company maybe so many would not have applied.
As an Indian we want to get every thing including salary without working for it. The burden has to be borne by others. This mindset starts from the highest office in India, the Parliament, the Courts etc who get generous salaries for not working and even more generous pensions for having not worked earlier.

Can you get me also a government job. I am expert in not working now after having slogged for the last 34 years in private service. My age is 58 yrs and am very suitable to do the jobs that the Government employees do.

Like (3)

Gunesh Apte

Apr 16, 2018

Since the Labour Bureau carried out six household-based Annual Employment-Unemployment Surveys (EUS) between 2010 and 2016; it would be more appropriate to declare the results of the sixth survey at the earliest. It is always better to use such tools and methods to keep improving overall Job Scenario in India.

I personally have seen substantial scenarios where some industries have reduced no. of positions at Senior level due to reduction in operating profit margins, since it was becoming difficult for them to remain profitable with large work force. I am not only talking about IT industry where employment has reduced but also telecom and banking sector.

There are implementations of Robotic Automation which can make certain mundane jobs redundant and companies can not always re-use those people some where else. Though this percentage is less, but I can also see that no. of self employed people is going up steadily since there are much less jobs.

Some of my close friends were struggling here and they have shifted to Western countries and Middle East in past one-two years not just for better salary but to ensure that they can work little longer than here (Say till age of 58-60 which is normal retirement age here but mostly senior people are told to retire early now-a-days). So one can imagine that scenario is very challenging.

Many industries are now looking for new technologies and new start ups are opening in few sectors. This need to be done on large scale to give opportunities to young and senior people both, and things might improve over a long period of time. Government is also probably putting their efforts and I am sure that, they will accelerate these initiative on large scale in next 10-15 years.

Like (3)

Gautam Satpathy

Apr 16, 2018

And Vivek,

Since you are so critical of the Narendra Modi Govt., I have a Question for you:

- Why have you not joined the Government and helped them shape the proper policies?

Critic outside of the Govt., is, "Good". "Needed". "Required". "Need of the Hour!"

Have you asked yourself the simple question - "Can I make a difference Inside rather than SHOUTING Outside?

If so, what was the result? Did they reject your job application?

If so, I ask Narendra, to reconsider - take in Kaul and let him help.

If otherwise, why am I paying to listen to you?


Like (3)

Ramesh Sharma

Apr 16, 2018

Any idea when was it last that such a large number of vacancies sought to be filled by the Railways any Government organisation? Was situation any better then?Would appreciate a response.

Like (3)

Nalin Khanna

Apr 16, 2018

I do not believe your article. The reason I say this is because our company is on the BPO - non- voice Space and we are finding very few takers for clerical/computer operators jobs that we are offering in the Dehradun region. The jobs are standard working hours with all employee benefits (e ESI, P.F, Bonus, Leave etc). But there are no takers in the Dehradun region despite a large a %age of population being in the 20-28 years age bracket. Where is the Unemployment ? I dont see it on the ground.

Like (3)
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