“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”
– M.K. Gandhi
India’s higher education system is one of the largest in the world. According to the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE:2018-19) there are 993 Universities, 39931 Colleges and 10725 Stand Alone Institutions with total enrolment in higher education estimated to be 37.4 million with 19.2 million male and 18.2 million female. The Gross enrolment ratio has increased from 25.8 in 2017-18 to 26.3 in 2018, whereas the Enrolment increased from 3.66 crore to 3.74 crore in absolute terms. This denotes that nearly 800,000 new students have entered the higher education in 2018-19
Source: University Grants Commission
As the central and state government announced lockdown with little or no time for various stakeholders, the situation of college students across the nation is grim because they haven’t yet formally completed the degree and are pending final assessment. The toll of pandemic covid-19 is unique and it will induce both economic and health implications on the potential graduates of 2020.
This unchartered territory is horrific for students with pre-placement offers. Given the large scale impact on the industry and trade, institutions that have extended offers are revoking the same except a few key players in the Indian market. What will you do if you are a graduate of 2020 whose only opportunity to work is robbed by the pandemic?
According to the AISHE by MHRD the number of students who would potentially graduate this year according to the data from 2017-2018 would be around 3.66 crore. Discounting the failures, the number of students entering the job market is fairly enormous. The anticipation of a recession in the global economy is adding stress to the graduates of 2020 as well as graduates in the subsequent years. In this article we have assessed the potential impact of covid-19 on the graduating students of 2020.
The impact of covid-19 can be assessed on following counts:
1. Lost Job Opportunities: The International labour Organization is anticipating that 40 crore informal workers in India may sink into poverty. The young adults who have put in everything they can so as to leverage the academic knowledge to reward them with a job are exposed to an uncertain future. The first job which provides a foundation for an excellent career is now a distant dream. When the economy is fragile due to pandemic and international organizations like the ILO estimating 2.7 billion workers potentially at a risk of long term effects of covid-19, a graduating student feels anxiety and is looking at an employment contraction on an unprecedented scale in many countries at the start of her/his career. The CMIE statistics for unemployment in the period March is worrisome. The unemployment rate has increased in March 2020 to 23 percent and continues to hover around that in April 2020. It’s not exaggeration that the start of a career and a new life for the graduates of 2020 is grossly obliterated by this pandemic.
Source: CMIE, 2020
2. Academic Impact: With the given situation the higher education authorities in the country are working towards implementing a framework to assess the final year students. But given this the students are in stress with respect to the grades they will secure if the format of the examination changes altogether. It is anticipated that the pattern of the examination will be changed and this will make it more uncertain for the students to score good grades. Lower credits or grades will make it difficult for them to secure further higher education in India or Abroad. This will induce a long term impact on their Curriculum vitae which will drastically reduce their employability and make them vulnerable in an already collapsing job market.
3. Impact on Mental Health: It is Natural for the students to be under stress during their graduating years but this stress is grossly escalated by the pandemic. At nascent age if they are worried about their assessment and employment because of a reason they are starkly unaware of, such a situation will implicitly pose more stress on them making them vulnerable to stress related diseases. Most if not all of the graduates are away from their families and lack the much needed emotional support in times of crisis. Given the situation of job market in India they are exposed to stress/ anxiety and hence the uncertain future is grossly inflicting damage on their physical as well as mental health.
4. Financial Impact: Given the state of financial condition of people in India, a graduating student is looked upon as a potential bread earner in many families in India. Given the fact that the graduating student is unable to secure a job deepens the concern of the family and induces immediate financial pressure on them. For a farmer family the income from their daughter or son provides much needed support in times of uncertain agriculture. The covid-19 pandemic will shatter dreams of a lot of such families who anticipated an additional source of income for the family from the graduating member. For families who have borrowed money for educating the child in the anticipation that they will repay the money once the child graduates, a situation like the covid-19 is a nightmare.
Given the impact of the crisis, how one can help the young graduates in the early years of their career is an important aspect of our analysis of the pandemic. The various stakeholders should take proactive measure if not to mitigate the crisis altogether but to provide the much needed support to these graduates in the short and medium term.
In the situation where global and Indian firms are revoking job offers, delaying interviews; the Higher education institutions at the outset should appeal not to revoke the already extended offers. Student have used the social media to reach out to recruiters and are requesting the Multinationals to defer the process until the travel restrictions are revoked but not cancel the recruitment altogether. Another important request can be extended to the employers by the civil society to be kind to the students whose CV reflects 2020 as the year of graduation. They should hire them and do the much needed they can for the future leaders in times of such a pandemic. This will give the students the much needed moral boost and will induce a wave of optimism in the student community.
Another important step expected from the MNCs or NGOs or recruiters is that they should enrol the students for a part time internship which will expose them for time being to various tools and processes used by the industry. This will reduce if not eliminate the stress which these graduates are facing due to global pandemic. On the similar lines the industry should also engage the students in some free online and or offline programmes which will give exposure to the fresh graduates about the industry in a global perspective. This will mitigate the stress to some extent.
Furthermore the government should introduce more funded projects, research assistantship or should refinance the existing projects so that the faculty members at the institutes of higher education can engage the graduates in such projects which will provide them short-term assistantship and keep their Curriculum vitae in a good shape.
These collective step by various stakeholder will if not eliminate the uncertain expectations will surely provide some relief to the graduating students of 2020. These students will certainly represent the institutions they studied in as well as the nation throughout their careers. Hence it is at this juncture a critical duty of the state and the society to provide them with the much needed support.
Sachin Bharat Bahule, Assistant Professor of Economics, Nowrosjee Wadia College Pune
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