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LUCKNOW, India — When a northern Indian state announced a few hundred job openings for low-level office workers who run errands and make tea, the response was staggering.
About 2.3 million people applied for the 368 jobs with the government of Uttar Pradesh. Hundreds of candidates with doctorates and other advanced degrees applied for the jobs that pay about 16,000 rupees ($240) a month and require a fifth-grade education.
The massive number seeking the menial jobs reflects high unemployment levels in the state — India’s most populous — and across much of the country.
Senior administrative officer Prabhat Mittal said Friday that the state government will conduct a written exam to screen the applicants because interviewing all of them would take four years.
“This is astoundingly high number of applicants,” senior government officer Alok Ranjan said.
“This reflects the condition of job market in India and shows desperation of the youth who despite being highly educated is ready to do a job where he has to run errands and wash tea cups and saucers,” he added.
The job openings were advertised in August and the application period ended Sept. 14.
At least 255 applicants had earned a doctorate and over 200,000 had graduate degrees. At least 30 trained computer engineers were also in the fray.
Job creation is an urgent requirement in this nation of 1.2 billion where 13 million young people enter the job market each year.
According to government data, about 6.6 percent of India’s workers are jobless. That doesn’t count the tens of millions who eke out a subsistence-level existence in menial, unsafe and backbreaking jobs. The employment situation is worse for young job-seekers, with government statistics placing the number of unemployed at about 10.5 percent.
The poor quality of education in India is partly to blame for the problem. Millions of job seekers have impressive-sounding diplomas but don’t actually have the skills promised by their certificates from substandard colleges and technical institutes.