Thursday, April 18, 2019

Message of the day

“We’re taking the day off!” We’re treating ourselves to a very good friday, and giving ourselves a break tomorrow. For all our readers who will be voting today: find your constituency and polling booth here; and information about your candidates here (under ‘summary of constituency’ on the left). See you bright and early on Monday. Wishing you all a happy Good Friday and long weekend!

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The number of unemployed educated Indians

A new study conducted by the Centre for Sustainable Employment (CSE) at Azim Premji University has released more job numbers. While it notes that “no direct causal relationship can be established” with demonetisation, the report brings bad tidings for educated Indians.


Background please! Earlier this year, the government tried to block the release of an important report on job loss/creation which showed that unemployment rate is now 6.1%—the highest ever since 1972-73. When the report was leaked to the media, much of the attention focused on joblessness in the rural sector, and the informal sector—and the impact of demonetisation and GST on the same. But new data—paired with analysis of pre-DeMo numbers—reveal a far more serious crisis facing educated Indians.


The CSE study: looked at data from a survey of 1,60,000 households conducted by the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy, an independent economic think tank. And here’s what it found:


  • 50 lakh men lost their jobs between 2016 and 2018. (Because the data on female unemployment varies greatly between different job surveys, the study does not have a comparable number for women)

  • India’s unemployed are mostly higher educated and young.

  • Urban women graduates are 10% of the working-age population but 34% of the unemployed. Unemployment rates are the highest among young, educated, women.

  • Male graduates between 20-24 years are 13.5% of the working-age population but 60% of the unemployed. Yes, 60%!


The key quote: “After remaining at around 2 to 3 percent for the first decade, the unemployment rate steadily increased to around 5 percent in 2015 and then just over 6 percent in 2018." In other words, this is a long-term trend which may have been accelerated by the implementation of demonetisation and GST—but was not created by either.


So what’s going on? The answer may lie in Shamika Ravi’s detailed analysis in Bloomberg—which sidesteps the controversy over recent jobs data and looks only at (pre-demonetisation) 2016 numbers. Her most unsettling insight: “Unlike in developed economies, where jobs increasingly flow to the better-educated, in India the trend is the opposite. Nearly 35 percent of Indian youth who possess graduate degrees and above are unemployed, while relatively uneducated young workers (6.2 percent unemployment) are doing much better. A highly educated Indian youth is more than five times as likely to be unemployed as an uneducated one.”


Why is that? This new generation is better educated than ever: 18-23 year-olds enrolled in a post-secondary degree program rose from 11% in 2006 to 26% in 2016. However, as The Wire notes, “The expectation of such youth is for an urban, regular job in either industry or services, not in agriculture. If they have the financial wherewithal to obtain education upto such levels, they can also ‘afford’ to remain unemployed.”


The bottomline: With or without demonetisation, the economy is not creating quality jobs for educated Indians. Also: many of them are saddled with a worthless education (see: engineering degrees) which does not train them with the skills needed for jobs of the future. In other words, India’s so-called ‘demographic dividend’ could very well turn into a demographic burden of unemployed and angry youth.


Learn more: The full CSE report is here. Bloomberg has Ravi’s deep dive into the 2016 numbers. Reuters did an excellent report on the jobs crisis facing Indians with engineering degrees. Broadsheet explained the significance of the leaked jobs survey back in February. The Wire published another analysis of the same jobs survey as CSE and reached much the same conclusions—but linked them to demonetisation.

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prepping for your awesome, super-long weekend

Terror suspect gets a BJP ticket: Pragya Singh Thakur has been picked as the party candidate in Bhopal, where she will take on Congress veteran Digvijay Singh. The most striking thing about Thakur: She is one of the prime accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast targeting Muslims. Six people were killed and 100 injured. She is currently out on bail. Bonus read: Indian Express lays out the evidence linking Thakur to the terror attack. Times of India explains the political math driving her selection.


Jet Airways flies into the night: for now. The airline has temporarily shuttered its operations after its lenders— a consortium of Indian banks led by State Bank of India—refused to release Rs 983 crore to keep the airline in the air. The decision has left its 16,000 direct and 6000 on-contract employees stranded and without any income. Why did SBI refuse to release the funds? According to an unnamed bank source, “Bankers badly burnt their fingers in the Kingfisher Airlines case. Bankers don’t want a repeat of Kingfisher in the Jet AIrways case. If the investigation comes at a later stage, nobody will come forward to help us. Bank officials which sanctioned loans to Kingfisher were booked later.” Vijay Mallya, the destroyer of airline employees everywhere! (Indian Express)


‘Kalank’ reviews are in: The verdict is: drop-dead gorgeous but dull, dull, dull. Indian Express says it “feels like a giant set, stately and ponderous and minus impact.” India Today calls it a “mind-numbingly boring tale of star-crossed love.” The Huffington Post headline: “An Uninspiring Story With Too Much 'Mohabbat', Not Enough 'Mehnat'. A far kinder NDTV offers this garbled consolation: “In its failures lie its allure. It is akin to a misfire that makes enough noise of the right kind so as not to be dismissed as mere waffle.” Then again, we hear Madhuri and Alia are stunning in every sense, and Varun Dhawan spends most of the movie shirtless… so there’s that.


India Inc has a caste problem: An analysis of mergers and acquisitions in India uncovered a critical problem: “[F]irms systematically seek out targets whose directors share caste identities with their own directors.” So Brahmin-dominated companies acquire or merge with Brahmin-dominated companies, and the same with Vaishyas etc. This holds true of even sub-castes or ‘jaatis’ like Agarwals or Maheshwaris. Moreover, most such deals are penalised by the stock market—and are typically not good for the company or shareholder value. (Forbes)


The difference between a ‘foreign correspondent’ and a ‘fixer’:  This thought-provoking first-person read by Priyanka Borpujari looks at the power imbalance between a foreign reporter and the local journalist who she hires as a ‘fixer’—i.e. the person who finds and ensures access to sources; who makes local arrangements; who not only acts as a translator, but also interprets and explains the information she gathers. (SAMSN)


Leprosy rises again in India: Back in 2005, the government declared that India no longer had a leprosy problem. But that announcement was premature. Fourteen years later, India accounts for 60% of the world’s cases, with more than 100,000 new patients diagnosed each year. So what happened? The problem with leprosy is that those infected may not display symptoms for 20 years—but can continue to infect others, who may also remain symptom-free and infectious. Leprosy never went away; it became invisible. (New York Times has more on the renewed fight against the disease)


This is the face of a cheater: A team of researchers asked men and women to look at photos of men and women, and rate how likely they were to cheat or steal someone else’s partner. Then they matched the results to the self-reported sexual track record of the folks in the photos. Let’s just say the results bode ill for men with “a strong browridge, strong jaw and thinner lips.” (Guardian)


This is the tallest building in India: At 268 metres, ‘The 42’ in Kolkata is officially the tallest building in India. It’s just the first of many other such towering (but not as tall) high-rises in the works. Because what Cal really, really needs is very tall buildings. (Times of India)


Forest rights vs Wildlife rights: We learned a lot from this Twitter thread on tribal hunting festivals, and the schism between those who advocate for the forest rights of tribal communities and wildlife conservationists. Do forest dwellers have the right to decimate wildlife as part of their tradition? Why do conservationists often remain silent when tribal land is destroyed by industrial or mining projects? It reveals both the difficulty and necessity of respecting both human and animal rights.


The world’s fattest parrot: OTOH, is doing far better than ever. The critically endangered kākāpō has had a record-breaking breeding season in New Zealand. That’s good news since there are only 147 adult kākāpō alive today. And because this is truly the goofiest looking parrot we’ve ever seen. See it in action here. (Guardian)

The dogs who were almost dog meat: Twenty three lovely dogs were rescued by a Kochi NGO from butchers in Mizoram where dog meat is a delicacy. To keep them silent, the dogs had their mouths stitched with steel wires and packed into gunny bags. But they’ve since been saved thanks to a court order. Now entirely healed, well-loved and trained, they are up for adoption nearly a year later. Check them out at or WhatsApp 7674922044. (Times of India)

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Unexpected, thought-provoking and always worth your time

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'The ‘Authenticity’ Edition

Who looks like a ‘real man’? Or a ‘real woman’ for that matter? Both these reads raise important questions about the relationship between appearance and gender identity.

Who looks like a ‘real woman’?

Ever since Dove launched its ‘Real Woman’ campaign in 2006, lifestyle brands have been doing their best to sell ‘real’ products to ‘real’ women so they can attain ‘real’ beauty in their ‘real’ lives and bodies. But does this version of authenticity merely “wrest the mantle of cultural approval from one subset of women and bestow it on another, a transfer of power that will hopefully be met with grateful sales dollars?” Maybe.

Read: There’s No Such Thing as a ‘Real’ Woman | The Atlantic

Sex, Love etc 2

Who looks like a ‘real man’?

Say hello to the ‘softboy’ who is “non-threatening, nontoxic, and knows how to wear a pastel.” This new kind of straight man rejects traditional masculinity by embracing a look that is typically viewed as “feminine.” Sadly, he may still turn out to be an old-fashioned jerk.

Read: Here's Why Boys All Over Social Media Are Proudly Calling Themselves "Softboys" | Buzzfeed

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