Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together – Vincent Van Gogh

Posts tagged ‘jobs’

India: Goa’s Women Professionals want more, and they want it now

This article is written by Sapna Shahani

Lillian D’Costa, 32, left the idyllic village of Saligao in North Goa where she had spent her childhood years, and moved to Bangalore, in neighbouring Karnataka five years ago. “I had reached a point where I wasn’t growing any more and realised I needed a change,” she recalls. “I’m sure that Goa offers a better quality of life than many other states, but that’s if you’re economically well-placed. If you’re young and need opportunities for growth, Goa does not work.”

Ashwina Souza, 23, left her family in the Southern Goan town of Vasco last year to pursue a Ph.D in Industrial Psychology in Mumbai. “My seniors told me that the faculty here in Goa was not as good as in Mumbai. Besides, in a place like Mumbai, there are so many industries and they need people like us. Among my circle of friends, many have left Goa – perhaps six or eight out of 10.”

Two voices of young women professionals from a state that has recorded the highest per capita income among all Indian states in a 2009-10, according to the central statistical office. However, a study by the Labour Bureau of the Ministry of Labour and Employment also reveals that Goa has the highest unemployment rate in the country. What’s worse, according to another study conducted by Goa’s Ministry of Labour in 2009, only one-fourth of those employed in the state are women.

These figures imply that not only is Goa’s wealth not distributed equally across all sections of society, its working women are clearly marginal players in the state’s economy. Unless efforts are made to reverse this trend, Goa stands to lose young talent, with many youngsters like Lillian and Ashwina being forced to leave home for educational and employment opportunities in other states. Indeed, they are left with little choice, given the rising inflation and high cost of living in Goa.

Perhaps in response to the impending crisis, Goa recently became the first state in India to announce a dole for jobless youth. But such political gestures are merely symbolic. There still isn’t much public discussion about creating jobs for the state’s 80,000 people registered with the Employment Exchange. The Goa Chamber of Commerce carries a telling piece of information on its website: “Roughly about 15,000 graduates come out of Goan colleges every year. The government on its own will not be in a position to provide employment to these youth…”

There is widespread consensus in Goa that higher education in the state does not prepare graduates for real jobs. While the state has focused on primary education – ranking 11th among all Indian states in terms of performance – higher education appears to have stagnated. Public perception is that it is best to earn one’s degree or post-graduate qualification outside the state if one can afford to do so.

Says Aldina Gomes, a lecturer at Carmel College for Women in Nuvem, “As a professor, I’m a little against how academics is handled here. Everyone has to study humanities but they don’t really have a connection to the subject. They won’t pursue humanities as a career but will end up doing something completely different… There is a clear lack of vocational guidance for students as well as career opportunities. There should be many more entrance exams, job-specific courses and certificates that can get you jobs.”

Of course, women students are full of expectations. Take Zaheera Vaz, 20, who is about to start her Master’s degree course in Political Science at Goa University. She is keen to have extra-curricular activities that could help her develop her analytical skills. Nashoma De Jesus, 22, who is currently finishing her Master’s degree in International Studies at Goa University, would like more field experience. “The education system is too theoretical. We need more exposure while we’re studying. Internships should be mandatory,” she argues.

But this would require more investment in higher education, as Sabina Martins, a prominent women’s rights activist and school teacher with a Ph.D in chemistry, points out. “I did my research in carbon, which can be prepared from coconut shells. I thought since Goa has so many coconut shells and carbon is in high demand, being used for water purification and in so many other applications, it should be easy to make carbon this way. I went to see the only plant that does this in Goa and it was run by someone from outside the state. Planning here is devoid of research,” she says.

Those who don’t leave the state and are lucky enough to find jobs after they graduate, get measly salaries, sometimes as low as Rs 4,000 (US41=Rs 44) a month. Aglin Barretto, 23, has a Master’s degree in Counselling Psychology and works in two schools as a counsellor. Her salary? Just Rs 5,000 per month.

Both opportunities and salaries are lower in Goa than elsewhere and that is a source of angst for young women like Skitter Faia, 32, who works in a PR firm in state capital Panaji. “I hear a lot of people talking about job security and I think that means a government job where you can work or not work and still take a salary home,” observes Skitter. Others feel that appreciation and promotions don’t easily come the way of women employees. Clara Rodrigues, 24, a journalist based in Saligao, rues the fact that the glass ceiling obstructs many ambitions women may harbour, “We need opportunities to grow vertically in the organisation.”

But this does not mean that women have stopped dreaming of personal growth and freedom. Interestingly, one of the reasons why many young women here prefer to migrate out of the state is to free themselves from the diktat of conservative families and the norms that mark rural life. D’Costa says, “As a single woman living outside the state, you don’t have to rush home. Or face judgmental people in the village who are always assessing you. Or hear that your phone isn’t accessible. These are constraints I experience every time I return to Goa.”

Despite the stereotypes fostered by the coastal tourist belt, life in Goa’s hinterland is fairly restrictive for young women and the general outlook is narrow. Ashwina shares a personal anecdote, “Once in college, a teacher asked us why we wanted to go to college. Students gave all sorts of answers. Some argued that it was their ticket to leave home; others said it was their certificate for marriage; still others just wanted to ‘pass time’, while a few talked of how it was the best way to make friends. Only three of us – out of a class of 60 – said they were in college to pursue a career.”

She and others like her want the state to be more pro-active about broadening professional vistas. Not only would this bring economic benefits to the state, it would mean more women in the workplace, they argue. For instance, they point out, that Goa – with its educated population – is eminently suited to emerge as an IT hub, yet little is being done to achieve this.

Says D’Costa, “The government wants to invite only ‘clean’ industries to the state. With its good roads, broadband connectively and relatively cheaper land, it could easily attract the IT industry. IT companies are moving out of Bangalore to places like Chennai and Vellore, but why aren’t they coming to Goa? Bangalore was once known as a retiree’s city, but now it has reinvented itself as a world city. Why can’t Goa make the same transition?”

If Goa has to keep pace with the hopes and expectations of women like D’Costa, it would need to do much more to expand employment opportunities for young professionals.

Published in Deccan Herald, Bangalore edition, 30th April 2011

People with Disabilities and the Recession

With the recession, tough economic times are upon most of us. Companies continue to maintain their freeze on recruitment, salary cuts are common, and layoffs informed to employees an hour before the end of the week. Non written communication to work longer hours is common place. Most people are glad they can retain their job, but the axe is not, say most companies, a matter of choice, some people must go so that the majority can stay, and during this time of deep economic uncertainty one wonders about  the situation of People with disabilities (PwDs).

India has nearly 70 million PwDs in the country. Those lucky to be employed predominantly find themselves in IT companies, telemarketing and BPOs.  A survey of the top 100 corporate houses in India, in 1999, show a mere 0.4% of their workforce was PwDs. Nothing has dramatically changed in the last ten years, PwDs continue to struggle to get employment in the best of times and with the current freeze on recruitment, their chances are as good as zero. Additionally is the bias that PwDs are ‘incapable’, most companies also unwilling or unable to make their premises ‘accessible’, which also acts as a hurdle, and so one can conclude with worrying certainty that PwDs are twice as badly hit by the recession as non disabled people.

If disability groups were demanding tax rebates as incentives for companies hiring PwDs before, now the situation is far more urgent. More so as most PwDs require to earn approximately twice as much as their non disabled counterparts to enjoy the same standard of living.

Few know with any certainty when the recession is going to end or how long it will take the economy to recover, would the Government then undertake a study to find out the effects of the recession on PwDs, would it then take measures to change the situation. Most disability groups believe, that with more pressing needs, they have little chance of getting Government attention. They have fewer expectations as none of the political parties even made a mention of these 70 million PwDs in their election manifesto. All PwDs can expect are a few more social welfare schemes, but with a limited budget and a large number of PwDs clamoring for them, chances are slim that there will be a diametric change.

Whether we like it or not, the 70 million PwDs are too big a population to ignore and brush aside, whether the new Government at the centre likes it or not, it will have to do something that will improve the economic lives of PwDs and pull them back from the ‘vulnerable’ list.

As I look around, I see the recession has turned into a god sent opportunity for young enterprising Indians. I am seeing more people in their 30s set up businesses of their own than ever before and perhaps PwDs need to be heading in the same direction.

With a little bit financial assistance from the Government and some training on business they are just as capable of success as any other businessman and we hope that’s what they will get by way of Government assistance.

Employment is key to empowerment


Persons with disabilities must get training and reservation in public and private jobs.

Employment is increasingly being viewed as the key to break the vicious cycle of poverty, social marginalization and lack of access to rights — something people with disabilities (PWDs) are often trapped in. Yet one cannot fail to realize that there are quite a few hurdles for both the employer and the employee in the context of recruiting PWDs.

The National Sample Survey Organisation 2002 report on “Disabled Persons in India” reveals that 55 per cent of PWDs are illiterate and even with the implementation of the Sarva Shiksha Abhayan; things don’t look ready to change drastically. Thus only a very small set of PWDs are really employable.

PWDs want educational opportunities so that they can get into the top echelons of decision making and influence the bureaucracy in a positive way. Unemployment in general is rising and the competition is growing stiffer. The employability of PWDs further suffers as few of the work environments in the public or private sector are really accessible. It is only in the recent past that companies are beginning to realize that their offices are indeed unfriendly to PWDs and architects are only now beginning to integrate an inclusive sensibility into their designs.

Fundamental right

However, the last few years have been seeing a major shift. For one, PWDs have begun vociferously arguing that employment is one of their fundamental rights. The Persons with Disability (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995, Chapter 6 on employment talks about identifying and reserving posts, setting up of Special Employment Exchanges, coming up with schemes for ensuring employment and providing incentives to employers to ensure five per cent of the work force is composed of PWDs. Three per cent of government jobs identified are reserved for PWDs, of these; one per cent is designated for people with visual, hearing and locomotor disabilities.

In 2001, the government initiated expert committees to identify the types of jobs suitable for people with different disabilities. A list of over 1,900 jobs had been prepared and circulated to all ministries of the government, while 1,075 jobs in the private sector were identified. A decade down the line however the number of PWDs who are unemployed is soaring and the government doesn’t have much to show for progress either. Not only has the government failed to implement its own laws, but it has also allowed the backlog to build by freezing employment in its own departments.

Here the private sector has seen the benefits of employing PWDs, not only are PWDs more focused at their work thus enabling larger output but the labour turnover for them is also comparatively low. Employing PWDs also sits well with the private sectors “corporate social responsibility”.


The disability sector is at a crossroad. The PWDs are demanding fair representation in the labour market. They are demanding a mandatory five per cent reservation in employment in both the public and private sectors and to be brought within the first 10 listings in the reservation roster.

With unemployment rates soaring, PWDs are asking the government to put greater thrust on self-employment opportunities by making it easier to access loans, by reducing paper work, and give more soft loans. There is also a need to modify labour and industrial policy to give incentives to companies that employ PWD, ensure companies make their work environment fully accessible and that penalties be imposed on employers who discriminate against PWDs.

The key to increasing the employability of PWDs is to provide them vocational training. PWDs are demanding that they should not be denied admission to any vocational training institution/program whether run by government, public or private sector merely on the grounds of disability and all vocational training institutions have a five percent reservation of seats for them.

The presently defunct Special Employment Centres need to be revived and to be involved in promoting employment opportunities by identifying appropriate jobs and requirements.

The above article has been published on the 9th of January 2007 in the Bangalore edition of the Deccan Herald

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