MUMBAI (HRNW) – On a hot summer afternoon, 23-year-old Nizamuddin Abdul Rahim Khan is playing cricket on a muddy, unpaved road in the Rafiq Nagar slum in India’s financial capital, Mumbai.
Here, there is scant evidence of India’s fast-growing economy.
Bordering what was once Asia’s largest garbage dumping ground, Rafiq Nagar and surrounding areas are home to an estimated 800,000 people, most living in tiny rooms across narrow, dark alleys.
The young men and women in the area struggle to find jobs or work, and they mostly dawdle the day away, said Naseem Jafar Ali, who works with an NGO in the area.
India’s urban unemployment soared during the COVID-19 pandemic, reaching a high of 20.9% in the April-June 2020 quarter, while wages fell. While the unemployment rate has fallen since fewer full-time jobs are available.
Economists say more and more job-seekers, especially the young, are looking for low-paid casual work or falling back on unreliable self-employment, even though the broader Indian economy is seen growing at a world-beating 6.5% in the financial year ending in March 2024.
India is overtaking China to become the world’s most populous nation with over 1.4 billion people. Nearly 53% of them are under 30, its much-touted demographic dividend, but without jobs, tens of millions of young people are becoming a drag on the economy.