December 09, 2005

Much ado about 80,000

This post is prompted by the comments on my earlier article here, A Price on Merit. In particular, this sentence: That the Mandal recommendations created a conflagration is reflective of the times, when government was the dominant provider of "jobs."

In other words, if Government was the "dominant provider of jobs", and Mandal was talking about reserving big chunks of those jobs, then it's no surprise that people erupted in protest.

But how many jobs did Mandal actually suggest should be reserved for what his Report termed OBCs? Well, let's see.

Regarding jobs, Mandal recommends reservations only for "Government services": let's take that to mean the public sector.

In 1991, when the Mandal agitation was on, employment in the public sector was 19.06 million. (This was out of a total of 26.74 million in the "formal" or "organized" sector). At the time, employment was growing at an annual rate of about 1.5 per cent. (all figures: Tata Statistical Outline of India).

That is, in 1991, the public sector created about 290,000 new jobs. It is these jobs that were subject to Mandal-recommended reservations. Mandal says 27 per cent of those jobs should be reserved for OBCs, or about 80,000 jobs.

80,000 jobs. Less than 0.01 per cent of India's 1991 population. About 0.4 per cent of total public sector employment in 1991.

There are many sound arguments against reservations. But I have never been able to understand this one about jobs and opportunities. Why was such an enormous fuss -- yes, even a conflagration -- made over such a small number of jobs? Why was this relatively tiny scale of reservation painted as a gigantic threat to a nation? Why is it still seen as a threat to this nation?

Aside: these figures also show that it is a myth that Government is, or has ever been, the "dominant provider of jobs."


In a last followup, I will explain one other aspect of the Mandal Report that's worth keeping in mind.


Nikhil said...

A small correction. The Mandal agitation started in 1990 - mainly to checkmate Devi Lal and the BJP's gain of strength in the North because of the Ayodhya agitation.
This was the agitation that spread and there was unprecedented police brutality on display.
Let us look at the situation in 1989 - The IT sector was not a force to reckon with - Liberalization under PVNR had not yet taken off.
The only avenue for the thousands of graduates from the Non prefessional streams were govt jobs and even a small chunk being taken away was like taking an opportunity away. This was what caused the entire agitation.
But what is the issue today that you have raked up Mandal in your columns.

zap said...

According to your post, Mandal said reserve 80000 of the 290000 jobs created in the public sector for OBCs. That is 27.58%.
27% of new jobs created every year is not a small percentage.

How do figures like "Less than 0.01 per cent of India's 1991 population. About 0.4 per cent of total public sector employment in 1991" make it any better for people looking for a job? Effectively they compete for 27.58% jobs lesser.

Also from the figures you have quoted they myth in your Aside is strengthened, not broken.

Please clarify.

HP said...

There's one problem with your calculation. You have not taken into account the people retiring every year. The reservations apply not only to the new jobs created but also to vacancies created by retirements.

According to government estimates 3% of the workforce retires every year. That means 572,000 jobs every year. 27% of this is 155,000. That takes the total number of jobs reserved for OBC's to 2.35 lakhs (80,000 new jobs & 1.55 lakh retirees). Now that looks like a substantial number to me....

Tanuj said...

stealing a car should be fine, then. after all, what's Rs 5 lac in a total industrial production base of several thousands of crores of rupees? why blame the poor thief?

the numerical argument (whoever brought it up) may be right, but irrelevant. just as with stealing, if you agree with reservation as a principle, then it shouldn't really matter if it's one job reserved for a group of castes or several lacs of jobs.

Anonymous said...

Dilip, to start off, let me say I don't agree with reservations. Especially in India where labour laws are so archaic that no one can ever be dismissed and people will be fattening themselves on the trough for ever. That said, if there must be reservations, why not reservations based on economic criteria. If your family (include parent's income to demonstrate that you did not have the opportunities that someone more economically advantaged had) falls below a certain income level, then you will be "preferred" for a job. Notice the word is preferred - not reserved. Every office (i.e. dept of the govt or institutions where the said reservation exists) should have to demonstrate that they have an inclusive hiring process by investigating their hires. Also, maybe resumes/applications should not include the names, you apply online for all jobs, at the end of the application process you are given a number. That is how you will be identified throughout the interview process till you get an appointment letter. I know this sounds crazy but then at least there cannot be a bias against or towards selecting certain people.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Nikhil, a lot of people (me included) see Mandal and Ayodhya in quite the reverse fashion: the BJP, perturbed by the potential political fallout of Mandal (after all, OBCs are estimated to amount to 52% of the population), scrambled for an issue that would be as politically lucrative. That's why they ramped up on Ayodhya.

I believe if this Mandal thing had been rationally explained and understood it would not have been seen as taking opportunity away. Graduates worried about a tiny fraction of potential jobs? Why? The "only avenue" was govt jobs? Hardly true. Instead, it served political purposes to paint Mandal in the worst possible light.

Why did I bring it up now? Well, to tell you the truth, I was thinking writing about the end of the Lalu era. Then I got thinking about Mandal, and about the way that report has always been portrayed. (Meaning, wrongly).

Dilip D'Souza said...

zap, my mistake was in not pointing here to a comment I made on my previous post about Mandal. I made that immediately before writing this.

Quickly, the point: formal employment is less than 10% of total employment in this country; government jobs are about two-thirds of that; and Mandal referred to reserving 27% of those jobs.

If you look at total employment, Mandal's recommendations did not take away 27% of it.

And this is what I meant by my aside. In 1991, Government provided about 6% of total employment: hardly the "dominant provider of jobs".

HP: that's a good point, and I had not considered that. I'm going to go check on that and how it applies to the figures I quoted. Thanks for bringing it up. I appreciate it.

Until I find out about this: even at 2.35 lakhs, we're talking about less than 0.03% of the population and about 1.2% of total public sector employment. I'm still unable to see this as a great threat to India.

Tanuj, I think what you say is very true: once you accept reservations, the numbers hardly matter. But I would like to say, it's not black and white. A lot of very ordinary people see reservations as entirely different from stealing a car.

Anonymous, Mandal was based on ... well, please bear with me till I get my followup post done.

TTG said...

This post deserves a TTG Rant. But TTG is rantless these days. This is for a variety of reasons....:-(
At best, you could say I'm agnostic about reservations. I'll believe they work if somebody gives me proof.

First do OBCs really make up half the population (of India)? Surely NOT! Then there's a 1 in 2 chance of some idiot High-Caste moron being made "impure".

Second, having been in the Majority in India, and the Minority in USA, I feel that affirmative action doesn't help. Here, you here about all the 'undeserving' people getting the jobs. In America, I had to live with the slur of being a 'minority' and may have been a 'diversity' candidate. One way or another, does it stop the discrimination? But then...maybe people like K.R. Narayanan would not have become the President of India - but did he triumph 'against all odds' or with the help of Affirmative action. Argh. One more rant-worthy post going scot-free. I am going to go back to cave and sulk.

Umesh Patil said...

80K jobs not available for general (say privileged class as well) public out of total 290K. If private sector was only adding 100K secured job at that time, you are talking about 20% of the total salaried opportunities. That may sound small, but considering huge number of people entering the job market and no other avenues of work, people felt that as substantial loss.

Job reservation is a hopeless policy. Government may rather spend money, give money. What is the point of creating more bureaucracy, wasting public money and putting incompetent people in places apart from not quite removing the original caste fissures in the society?

The sad part of Mandal policy is many progressives bought to this affirmation mania. It does not remove society's problem. Plain old simple Capitalist growth is the straight forward answer. State is there to be enabler for people to make them capable of participating in the economic activity or being the savior of the last resort for those who fall through the cracks. Working for State can not be substitute for economic development. What do we do with all these Babus? More corruption, more caste based thinking and more obstructions in Market Dynamics?

We just have to get out of this mentality. 80K jobs or less number of jobs; it does not matter when in the first place the whole approach is totally wrong and counter productive.