High school graduates win jobs

by Mahesh Vyas

The Indian workforce underwent a significant structural shift along the education axis post the Covid-19 lockdown of 2020. People with only a little education were the biggest losers of employment. Well-educated people also lost jobs. They, the graduates and post-graduates, have still not recovered those casualties. On the other hand, people with higher secondary education and not much more have gained jobs. Both ends of the education spectrum have been losers and the middle has gained.

Jobs held by graduates and post-graduates (graduates-plus) were increasing steadily till the pandemic. They rose from 51.5 million in 2016-17 to 52.9 million in 2017-18 and 54.3 million in 2018-19. They dropped in the middle of 2019-20 but rose again and the year ended with an average of 54 million graduate-plus jobs. The share of graduates-plus in India’s workforce increased from 12.5 per cent in 2016-17 to 13.4 per cent in 2018-19 before dropping a bit to 13.2 per cent in 2019-20.

Graduate-plus jobs had scaled up to 55.6 million in the quarter ended March 2020, which was just before the economy was hit by the effects of the lockdown. The immediate impact of the lockdown was a loss of over 10 million jobs of graduates and post graduates. These jobs fell to 44.9 million in the quarter ended June 2020. But, graduates-plus were not the worst hit initially and so their share in total employment inched up a bit to 13.7 per cent, albeit just momentarily.

The full and lasting impact of the lockdown on the quality of India’s workforce was felt in the subsequent quarter that ended in September 2020. Graduate-plus Jobs fell further to 43.7 million and more importantly, their share in the total workforce dropped sharply to 11.1 per cent in this quarter. This was effectively a very sharp deterioration in the quality of education of the workforce deployed in India. This quality has been improving rather gradually and so, inadequately. By the quarter of December 2021, at 12.2 per cent the share of graduates-plus in India’s workforce was still worse than it was at 13.7 per cent just before the April 2020 lockdown shock.

By February 2022, the Indian workforce included 50.3 million graduates and post-graduates. This is 7 million less than the 57.3 million graduates-plus employed in February 2020.

At the other end of the spectrum is the workforce with less than higher secondary education. They had not cleared their tenth standard examinations. These accounted for well over half of the workforce, 54.5 per cent, in the quarter ended March 2020. By the quarter of December 2021, their share was down to 49 per cent. This segment of the workforce, being the least educated is also the most vulnerable. In the June 2020 quarter when India witnessed the most stringent lockdown, these workers saw a sharp 30 per cent fall in employment. Then, when the lockdown was mostly lifted in the next quarter, the informal nature of the employment of this segment enabled a 31 per cent rebound. But, vulnerabilities remain. Employment has steadily declined among these least educated people of the workforce.

In February 2022, employment among those who had still not completed their tenth standard education was at 192.8 million. This was 11.6 per cent lower than it was in February 2020. This fall is much larger than the overall fall of 2.2 per cent in employment during the same period.

The winners in this scenario of shrinking employment have been those who cleared their tenth or twelfth standard the high school graduates. Employment of this group and their share in total employment was rising steadily even before the pandemic. They accounted for 27.9 per cent of total employment in 2016-17. This rose to 29.7 per cent in 2017-18, 30.5 per cent in 2018-19 and 31.3 per cent in 2019-20. In 2020-21, the year of the pandemic induced lockdowns and restrictions on mobility, the share of high school graduates shot up to 38 per cent. The rise was sudden and sharp. In the quarter ended March 2020, just before the intense lockdown, their share in total employment was 31.8 per cent. In the first quarter of the pandemic, the April-June 2020 quarter, the share shot up to 39 per cent. Since then, the share has remained elevated at between 37 and 39 per cent.

At the peak of the restrictions, employment among high school graduates remained most resilient. In April 2020, while employment among the least educated (who had not even cleared their tenth standard examinations) fell by 38 per cent and that among graduates-plus fell by 20 per cent, employment among the high-school graduates fell by a lesser 17 per cent. More importantly, the last group recovered the losses quickly.

The quarter ended June 2020 saw employment among the least educated fall by 30 per cent and that among graduates-plus fall by 19 per cent. But, employment among high-school graduates fell by only 1 per cent. In February 2022, employment among the high-school graduates was 18 per cent higher than it was in February 2020. At the same time employment among the least educated and the graduates-plus was 12 per cent short of their respective levels in February 2020.

If we combine the above analysis with the fact that graduates face the highest unemployment rate of over 19 per cent, then the inference seems to be that education beyond high school reduces the chances of getting a job.

Unemployment Rate (30-DAY MVG. AVG.)
Per cent
6.5 +0.1
Consumer Sentiments Index
Base September-December 2015
78.9 +0.7
Consumer Expectations Index
Base September-December 2015
77.3 +0.4
Current Economic Conditions Index
Base September-December 2015
81.5 +1.1
Quarterly CapEx Aggregates
(Rs.trillion) Dec 21 Mar 22 Jun 22 Sep 22
New projects 4.03 8.48 4.39 3.27
Completed projects 2.77 1.32 1.20 1.14
Stalled projects 0.08 0.43 0.27 0.06
Revived projects 1.98 0.32 0.29 0.07
Implementation stalled projects 0.66 0.09 0.29 0.03
Updated on: 06 Oct 2022 8:28PM
Quarterly Financials of Listed Companies
(% change) Sep 21 Dec 21 Mar 22 Jun 22
All listed Companies
 Income 27.5 23.4 20.8 40.3
 Expenses 26.7 21.3 19.9 41.7
 Net profit 55.7 35.4 30.6 20.4
 PAT margin (%) 9.6 9.0 8.8 7.3
 Count of Cos. 4,705 4,754 4,656 4,572
Non-financial Companies
 Income 35.7 29.2 24.8 50.3
 Expenses 36.1 28.8 25.7 53.4
 Net profit 58.0 19.2 9.8 7.8
 PAT margin (%) 8.7 7.5 7.6 5.9
 Net fixed assets 4.9 2.0
 Current assets 11.1 15.2
 Current liabilities 0.9 11.9
 Borrowings 12.2 3.6
 Reserves & surplus 12.6 11.2
 Count of Cos. 3,398 3,443 3,382 3,354
Numbers are net of P&E
Updated on: 06 Oct 2022 8:28PM
Annual Financials of All Companies
(% change) FY20 FY21 FY22
All Companies
 Income 0.6 -1.0 25.9
 Expenses 0.4 -3.2 24.4
 Net profit -6.2 73.6 62.9
 PAT margin (%) 2.0 4.3 8.6
 Assets 9.0 9.9 9.6
 Net worth 4.8 12.0 14.2
 RONW (%) 3.3 6.8 12.4
 Count of Cos. 32,743 31,040 6,560
Non-financial Companies
 Income -1.1 -2.0 32.4
 Expenses -0.9 -3.9 31.9
 Net profit -22.5 61.2 59.8
 PAT margin (%) 2.2 3.9 7.4
 Net fixed assets 11.4 2.3 1.9
 Net worth 2.1 10.3 14.7
 RONW (%) 4.6 7.6 13.8
 Debt / Equity (times) 1.2 1.0 0.7
 Interest cover (times) 1.9 2.4 4.7
 Net working capital cycle (days) 82 87 54
 Count of Cos. 25,923 24,408 4,771
Numbers are net of P&E
Updated on: 05 Oct 2022 12:29PM