Class of 2020: Recession on the loose and hasty goodbyes

Christie Syndor
Sunday, 31 May 2020

Their jobs have been withheld and many offers revoked, internships have been cancelled and interviews postponed. Now, they wander from site to site for job applications and watch recruiters ignore their email. 

In an ideal world, Rijish Deb, 21, by now would have kickstarted a promising career in the fashion world. National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) is among India’s premier institutes, and its graduates are among the most sought ones. Stuck in Bengaluru, where he had come to complete his final project, all Rijish worries now is how will he pay his education loan. 

“Many of us have taken loans to study in college; we don’t know how we are going to pay back those. It’s difficult even to find a job,” Rijish’s words echo the concerns of several victims from the batch of the dreaded year, 2020. 

Many college seniors, already uneasy when the coronavirus pandemic forced them to leave campus in mid-March are now faced with rising unemployment and a virus that continues to impact the economy.

Given the uncertainty of a future reunion, the abrupt departure was pretty upsetting as it meant hasty goodbyes while some – even missed out on them. Many of the seniors are now staying at home with their families, with an even worse prospect- a job market bleaker than ever before. 

Earlier this month, the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) had said that the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in an increase in the country’s unemployment rate to 27.11 per cent for the week ended May 3, up from the level below 7 per cent before the pandemic started in mid-March. 

They had hoped to secure jobs at fashion brands, in political campaigns, in journalism, digital marketing, sales and finance and more. Instead, jobs have been withheld and many cancelled, internships have been cancelled and interviews postponed. Now, they wander from site to site for job applications and watch recruiters ignore their email. 

In March, Ishani Singh, a 23-year-old postgraduate mass communication student with ambitions for a career in journalism, received a job offer from the company that she had ardently wanted. A few weeks later, she got a mail saying that her offer letter stands on hold due to coronavirus lockdown. Earlier this month she got an upsetting mail that the offer letter is withdrawn, the organisation was unable to “take on more employees due to economic pressure”, she says.

“I have no clue how and where to apply for new companies after the termination of my job. There are hardly any media houses that will hire fresh employees at this point. The pay scale is comparatively meagre, and job security has gone for a toss in the present day,” she said.

Rijish, a fashion technology graduate from NIFT, Chennai, was completing his final project in an apparel company in Bengaluru when the first nationwide lockdown was enforced due to coronavirus. With the hope of the pandemic to come at ease in a few weeks, he agreed to the company’s suggestion to stay back so that he could complete his final project, “but that seems far from happening anytime soon,” he says. 

“I am currently stuck in Bengaluru. A day before the lockdown was announced, our company had shut down but suggested us to stay for a week or two (in the hope to reopen soon), so we could go to the factory to complete our final project. Many of us took up projects in different cities, but now everything has been put on hold,” Rijish said.

Rahul Dutta, a Kolkata native who completed his post-graduation from IIMC, Delhi, had high hopes after getting his communications degree. The placement process supposed to start this month due to lockdown has now been postponed to a no clarified date. However, he is making the most of this time; he has set up a YouTube channel to promote independent journalism. He believes, journalism is going to take a new face and will be completely digitalised in the post-pandemic world.

“This year, I had very high hopes of getting placed, but now everything looks blurry. On an individual level, I have started a YouTube channel as a stepping stone to help my career take off once the economy can provide jobs,” said Rahul.

Dharmendra Chavan, a senior professor at SIMC, with over two decades of experience in the field of film and media, has also been looking after the yearly placements of the film students. He says that the “graduating batch has suffered the most.”

“It is a major setback for the entertainment industry. All the film, TV productions are on hold,” he said. 

According to Chavan, three industries will pick up its speed faster than other sectors after lockdown, and those are the food, entertainment and education. He also talks about developing skills to secure jobs for the future since now industries will hire those who can multitask.

The entertainment industry is among the worst hit due to all the productions and shoots being on hold. This means that it “could be possible that film productions will shift their base in green zone cities from Mumbai. This will be a great push for the production of regional content,” Chavan explains.

With the sluggish economy, the highest pressure is on the young minds trying to apply for higher study or gain job experience. Some of them have education loans, but with the bleak job and future prospects, students don’t know how will they pay it back or extend the loans for higher education. 

Certain sectors got more affected. Job searches in public relations, education, and creative industries usually do not to begin until the spring semester, the time when the pandemic struck. Students in these domains are those who are likely to have the most trouble right now.

Ashish Kulkarni, an assistant professor at Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, a business analyst and economist, said that in every other sector, there is going to be a very severe impact on employment prospects. 

“In a sense, it is even worse for a creative job like journalism or broadly media, because the understanding of fieldwork is going to change, and journalism that is dependent on advertising will be very negatively impacted. Subscription-based models will be increasingly attempted, but it won’t be easy,” says Kulkarni.

Professional forecasters, S&P Global Ratings turned to a consensus that India’s economy will face its worst recession in 40 years. It announced on Thursday that the Indian economy would contract 5 per cent in FY21, assuming that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will peak by the September quarter.

Mass sackings have become the trend globally ever since the pandemic has started affecting businesses. The economies continue to crumble as the coronavirus spreads. For the batch of 2020, an uncertain future stare at them with only time to be blamed and optimism and innovation as the hope.

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