By Mohammad Tawheed
OTo funded your college or university degree? The latest smartphone in your hands, did you pay for it with your own hard-earned money? Or how much of your wedding jewelry was not purchased with your parents but with your own savings? Does your friend or sibling pay for the taxi when you go to a job interview? Well, if it’s usually someone other than you who pays your bills, then you’re very different from those who work part-time or work shifts. It is also likely that you live in Kashmir because part-time work is still taboo there.
Kashmir being a class conscious society, associates different types of jobs with different classes. For example, the educated upper and middle class are usually associated with white collar jobs and the lower or uneducated class are associated with blue collar jobs. As a result, white collar jobs are highly valued while blue collar jobs are looked down upon. This class-based labor market hierarchy in Kashmir has created a stigma around part-time work, which, due to the lack of a robust private sector, includes mostly blue-collar jobs.
Traditionally, the government has been the largest employer in Jammu and Kashmir and educated young people, especially in the Kashmir Valley, have relied on full-time government jobs for their employment and job security. Most valley residents are opposed to private sector jobs that do not guarantee job security. This reliance on government jobs as the only secure job has also added to the stigma of part-time work among Kashmiris.
As a result, large numbers of young people ─ students, colleges or universities are fainting, people who are planning their weddings, people who want to earn a little extra money on top of their jobs or businesses or simply those who need ─ lack a lot of part-time work or earning opportunities. Educated but unemployed young people who aspire to nine or five administrative or managerial jobs are unwilling to accept part-time blue-collar jobs as an alternative, at least for now. Even unskilled and uneducated young people are reluctant to work part-time.
Moreover, as data released by the Center for Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE) shows, the union territory of J&K is reeling from high unemployment rates. J&K reported an unemployment rate of 17.1%, 3rd the highest in the country for the January-April quarter of 2022. In the May-August quarter, the rate was 19.1%, again 3rd the highest in the country. And in September 2022, the unemployment rate jumped to 2n/a the highest in the country at 23.2%. This comes against the backdrop of enormous economic devastation caused by crippling lockdowns necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the periods of confinement, the main economic sectors of J&K such as horticulture, tourism, transport and trade were among the worst performing sectors and also the most damaged. According to CMIE, more than five lakh people in J&K lost their livelihoods between June 2020 and March 2021. Betting and daily works depended on NGOs or other voluntary organizations for their basic needs like food. Many businesses like local handicraft suffered irrecoverable losses while some of the business units were closed due to non-payment of loans and debts. Overall economic activity in Kashmir during the pandemic was next to zero. Losses to Kashmir’s economy during the pandemic have been estimated by various trade and business bodies at around 40,000 crore.
Given the cumulative effect of class consciousness, unemployment, and the pandemic, it would be an educated guess that many people in the Valley live in precarious economic conditions. And in a society like ours, where your social class determines whether or not you accept a certain type of job, you are basically reducing your chances of achieving a certain level of financial stability. For example, if you are someone in need─ you are currently unemployed or your first business went bankrupt or you don’t want to miss your student loan IME─ taking a part-time job would be the ideal respite from your financial worries, however, if at the same time you live in a class conscious Kashmiri society, there will probably be no easy respite from your financial troubles due to the cultural debasement of jobs at part-time or blue collar.
In Kashmir we see many young people who have reached marriageable age either unable to pay for their wedding or totally dependent on their parents to get married as well as for their life after marriage. This has led to an upward trend in late marriages. According to a study by Department of Sociology, University of Kashmir, the percentage of unmarried population in Kashmir is fifty-five percent.
All these figures and facts bring before us an extremely worrying reality of Kashmiri society. To deal with such problems, why can’t we, like in the developed world, set aside the stereotypes associated with part-time or blue-collar jobs and just let people work and earn as needed? Therefore, it is high time to break the taboo around the culture of part-time work in Kashmir and inculcate the dignity of work in our society so that people are encouraged to accept part-time jobs in any form. it would be.
Also, working part-time doesn’t always have to be driven by need. Those who voluntarily or involuntarily seek part-time work are showing an upward trend across the world, particularly in the developed world. According to data provided by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the proportion of people employed part-time among all employed people in 2021 for different countries is ─ 36% in the Netherlands, 25.6% in Japan, 25.3% in Switzerland, 22.2% in Germany, 21.7% in the United Kingdom and 20.3% in Norway.
In the current global scenario, millennials (26-41) and Gen Z (18-25) are more financially sophisticated than any previous generation at their age. According to the 2022 Investopedia Financial Literacy Survey conducted in the United States, 54% of Gen Z adults already hold some sort of investment in the stock market. Again, why can’t Kashmiri people earn and learn how to manage their finances at a young age? We must encourage our young people, especially students, to develop the temperament for simultaneous work-study culture. Apart from the fact that part-time work is essential for students sponsoring their own studies, it helps students learn skills to manage their finances and solve real-world problems early in life.
There is also an urgent need to normalize existing part-time or manual jobs in the Kashmiri labor market. The hardworking people who come here from outside J&K can teach us a lot because the jobs a local Kashmiri opposes are the same jobs they do after traveling long distances and far from home. Although Kashmir does not have a huge part-time job market, opportunities such as working as a barista in restaurants or as a sales assistant in retail stores, driving a taxi or guiding tourists on weekends are always available. . Freelance opportunities are opening up in fields like journalism. Online jobs that pay by the hour, such as content writing, also exist.
It is very important to realize the fact that the lower status associated with part-time or manual jobs is purely a social construct and this construct prevents people from mitigating the effects of financial uncertainty, especially in times of record unemployment and high inflation. We need to create a culture free from constraints on the pursuit of financial independence.
Yes, part-time work, especially blue-collar jobs, doesn’t offer the kind of job security or financial development one is looking for, but part-time work is definitely something better than idleness. More often than not, working part-time benefits rather than harms or does nothing for you. Unemployed young people in Kashmir, regardless of their educational status or class, must apply for these jobs, at least for now.
The opinions expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the editorial position of Kashmir Observer
- The author is a journalism student
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