More than one in three (36%) Indians between the ages of 15 and 34 believe unemployment is the biggest problem before the country. About one in six (16%) think it is poverty, and 13% think it is inflation.
These findings, which are part of a report released by Lokniti-CSDS earlier this month, suggest that the youth identify challenges relating to the economy as the most significant facing the nation. The report offers insights into career aspirations, job preferences, and expectations of younger Indians.
About 6% of respondents identified corruption as the most significant challenge; 4% each identified problems in education and high population.
Concerns over jobs
The proportion of youth identifying unemployment as the biggest problem has increased by 18 percentage points from the results of a similar survey in 2016. The share of those identifying price rise as the primary concern has increased by 7 percentage points.
While the data from the 2023 survey — conducted in 18 states with a sample of 9,316 respondents — show unemployment as a significant concern across all economic classes, it is particularly pronounced among middle-class youth.
Also, as many as 40% of highly educated respondents (graduate and above) identified unemployment as the most pressing concern. In contrast, only 27% of non-literate individuals cited unemployment as their primary concern, likely due to their greater willingness to take on a range of jobs.
Forty-two per cent of men said unemployment was the most significant problem; among young women, this number was 31%.
Poverty and price rise emerged as a more prominent problem for youth from lower economic backgrounds. A larger proportion of women (across economic classes) expressed concerns about price rise and poverty. (Table 1)
Almost half of respondents (49%) said they were engaged in some form of work — 40% had full-time jobs; 9% were working part-time. Almost a fourth (23%) of youth with jobs were self-employed. Sixteen per cent were professionals such as doctors or engineers,15% were involved in agriculture, and semi-unskilled and skilled workers made up 27% of the total. Only 6% were in government jobs. (Table 2)
About 20% of working youth chose their job out of an interest; an almost equal proportion (18%) took the only option they had.
Asked what their ideal occupation would be if they had the freedom to choose, almost 16% of youth mentioned jobs in the health sector, such as doctors, nurses, and other medical staff (Table 3). The education sector was the second most preferred (14%), followed by science and technology-related jobs and starting their own businesses (10% each). Six per cent wanted to be in a government job.
Interestingly, only 2% of respondents said they would like to continue in their current jobs.
Govt job vs Private
Asked to choose from a government job, a private job, or setting up their own business, three out of five respondents chose government jobs, and more than one out of four opted for own business.
Time series data from previous rounds of youth studies show the consistent appeal of government jobs over the last decade and a half (Table 4).
The preference for setting up an own business has grown consistently over this period — from 16% in 2007 to 27% in 2023.
(Vibha Attri is Researcher with Lokniti-CSDS. Sanjay Kumar is Professor at CSDS)