Hiring for government jobs is drying up, reaching the lowest level in at least three years in FY21 as the coronavirus pandemic spread misery far and wide.
While the central government hired 27% fewer people in FY21, states hired 21% fewer, payroll data of the National Pension System (NPS) showed.
The central government hired almost 119,000 people on permanent rolls in FY20, but the numbers dropped to 87,423 in FY21. Similarly, states hired 389,052 people in FY21, a drop of almost 107,000 from the year before.
The data indicates that not only the private sector, even the government has slowed down hiring in the middle of an adverse economic environment. India’s GDP contracted 24.4% and 7.3% in the first two quarters of FY21, before expanding 0.4% in the third quarter. Rating agency ICRA Ltd forecast a 2% GDP growth for the fourth quarter.
With the country battling a second wave of the pandemic and state-level lockdowns impacting economic activity, the recovery in FY22 may only be sluggish.
The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) data released earlier this month showed that the second wave erased at least 7.35 million jobs in April, after minor job losses in February and March. The number of employees, both salaried and non-salaried, fell from 398.14 million in March to 390.79 million in April, registering a third straight month of decline.
Experts and government employees’ unions attribute the lower government hiring to the pandemic, a subsequent ban on creating new positions, and the increased dependence on outsourced workers.
“Government hiring is going down year after year and this trend will continue because departments at the Union government level and even in states are reducing permanent positions and increasingly going for contract employment. Multi-tasking contract workers, as the government calls them, are being hired instead of permanent employees,” said Prem Chand, general secretary, Indian Public Service Employees Federation (IPSEF).
“There are two reasons why the government is doing so – one, they want to reduce employee costs and two, contract workers won’t be able to speak up against the system. At any ministry, you can easily spot contract workers deployed for secretarial support services. Even a portion of the secretary and additional secretary support staff are now going to contract workers. They are hired through private contractors and that’s the reason permanent workers’ hiring is falling regularly,” Chand of IPSEF explained.
NPS data showed that the central government hired an average of almost 11,000 people every month in 2017-18, which fell to 9,900 in 2019-20 and 7,285 in 2020-21. At the state government level, the average monthly additions were 32,421 in FY21 as against 45,208 in FY19.
The Union government told the Lok Sabha in March that it is hiring outsourced employees at the ministry and department levels, but it does not have a central record.
“The establishments in the government may outsource employees based on their respective requirements. The General Financial Rules 2017 (GFR 2017) allow the central government establishments to outsource certain services. As each ministry/department is competent to procure services of outsourcing agencies at its level to meet seasonal or short-term requirements, the centralized data is not maintained in this regard,” the department of personnel and training (DoPT) informed the Parliament.