India’s workforce feel economic burnout

Vishal MANVE –
India’s government releases its 2020 budget on Saturday, facing stuttering growth and record unemployment and a jump in inflation that has further widened India’s wealth gap.
A botched nationwide tax rollout, the 2016 shock cash ban and a sharp liquidity crunch in the vast shadow banking sector all played their part in creating the crisis that roils Asia’s third-largest economy.
AFP spoke to Indians from different sections of society about the impact of the economic slowdown, which has put Prime Minister Narendra Modi under considerable pressure.
An engineering degree from a prominent university followed by a job that paid Rs 42,000 ($590) a month: Rahul thought he was set for life. But when the slowdown struck and companies laid off thousands, Rahul — whose name has been changed at his request — lost his job and has been struggling to land another.
“I am constantly sending my resume hoping to get an interview call but companies barely respond. The situation is depressing,” he said. The 27-year-old said he now relies on his father’s savings and pensions to keep their household running.
At 50, Saroj Ahire was forced to take two jobs and work through the night to earn Rs 15,000 a month, simply to keep her head above water. But the increase in income is no match for inflation, she said.
“By the 25th of every month, I run out of cash and have to buy rice on loan from local shopkeepers,” the domestic worker said.
With rising prices prompting her to think twice about what she eats — onions are now a luxury rather than a staple — planning for the future is impossible. Working for wealthy households only makes her feel worse, said Ahire, who shares a cramped one-room shanty with four family members. “Watching them enjoy good food while I clean their homes… it causes a bit of heartburn for sure,” she said.
“We also want to live a good life and eat well.”
Not everyone is faring poorly. India’s stock markets have been hitting record highs, bringing cheer to investors with enough cash to plough into equities. A report by the charity Oxfam published last week said the wealth of India’s top one per cent increased by a staggering 46 per cent over the past year.
“Select stocks have done very well and since rich people have higher allocation of their wealth in equities they would have gotten richer,” R Venkataraman, managing director of financial services firm IIFL Securities, said. “Otherwise it’s very difficult to give a figure of 46 per cent increase in wealth in an economy like this.” Reliance Industries, helmed by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, became India’s most valuable company with a market capitalisation of more than Rs 10 trillion in 2019. — AFP