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‘Off to Canada’: India’s jobs crisis exasperates its youth

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Srijan Upadhyay supplied fried snacks to small eateries and roadside stalls in the poor eastern Indian state of Bihar before COVID-19 lockdowns forced most of his customers to close down, many without paying what they owed him.

With his business crippled, the 31-year-old IT undergraduate this month travelled to Rajpura town in Punjab state to meet with consultants who promised him a work visa for Canada. He brought along his neighbour who also wants a Canadian visa because his commerce degree has not helped him get a job.

“There are not enough jobs for us here, and whenever government vacancies come up, we hear of cheating, leaking of test papers,” Upadhyay said, waiting in the lounge of Blue Line consultants. “I am sure we will get a job in Canada, whatever it is initially.”

India‘s unemployment is estimated to have exceeded the global rate in five of the last six years, data from Mumbai-based the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) and International Labour Organization show, due to an economic slowdown that was exacerbated by the pandemic.

Having peaked at 23.5% in April 2020, India’s joblessness rate dropped to 7.9% last month, according to CMIE.

The rate in Canada fell to a multi-month-low of 5.9% in December, while the OECD group of mostly rich countries reported a sixth straight month of decline in October, with countries including the United States suffering labour shortages as economic activity picks up.

Graphic: Unemployment Rate- https://graphics.reuters.com/INDIA-UNEMPLOYMENT/INDIA/zjvqknbzxvx/chart.png

What’s worse for India, its economic growth is producing fewer jobs than it used to, and as disheartened jobseekers instead take menial roles or look to move overseas, the country’s already low rate of workforce participation – those aged 15 and above in work or looking for it – is falling.

“The situation is worse than what the unemployment rate shows,” CMIE Managing Director Mahesh Vyas told Reuters. “The unemployment rate only measures the proportion who do not find jobs of those who are actively seeking jobs. The problem is the proportion seeking jobs itself is shrinking.”

Graphic: Labour participation rate (LPR)- https://graphics.reuters.com/INDIA-UNEMPLOYMENT/INDIA-UNEMPLOYMENT/jnvwejnnlvw/chart.png

VOCAL FOR LOCAL

Critics say such hopelessness among India’s youth is one of the biggest failures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who first came to power in 2014 with his as yet unfulfilled promise of creating millions of jobs.

It also risks India wasting its demographic advantage of having more than two-thirds of its 1.35 billion people of working age https://data.oecd.org/pop/working-age-population.htm.

The ministries of labour and finance did not respond to requests for comment. The labour ministry’s career website had more than 13 million active jobseekers as of last month, with only 220,000 vacancies.

The ministry told parliament in December that “employment generation coupled with improving employability is the priority of the government”, highlighting its focus on small businesses.

Modi’s rivals are now trying to tap into the crisis ahead of elections in five states, including Punjab and most populous Uttar Pradesh, in February and March.

“Because of a lack of employment opportunities here, every kid looks at Canada. Parents hope to somehow send their kids to Canada,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, whose Aam Admi Party is a front-runner in Punjab elections, told a recent public function there.

“I assure you, within five years they will start returning because we will create so many opportunities for them here.”

He did not explain, but party workers said their policies would attract job-creating businesses.

Punjab’s neighbour Haryana, home to local offices of many global IT companies and an automobiles hub, has already ordered that most jobs there be reserved for locals. A political party in Punjab has promised something similar if voted to power.

“To an extent, if a particular sector is doing well, then some arrangements can be made to ensure that local youth get opportunities,” said Amit Basole, head of the Centre for Sustainable Employment in Azim Premji University in Bengaluru.

“But if overall job creation is weak, then such policies do not solve the underlying problem. And they may also make things worse by reducing investment.”

CMIE’s Vyas said India needs more investment in labour-intensive industries and should bring more women into the labour force, like Bangladesh has done through its garments factories.

“NO ONE DELIVERS”

Between 2018 and 2021, India suffered its longest period of slowdown since 1991, with unemployment averaging 7.2%, CMIE data shows. Global unemployment averaged around 5.7% in that period.

The jobs shortage is particularly problematic for a country like India where annually 12 million people reach employment age. The economy has not grown fast enough to absorb so many people, economists say.

Also, the increase in workforce for every percent rise in gross domestic product has shrunk: the economy will have to grow at 10% to raise employment by 1%, said Basole of Azim Premji University.

In the 1970s and 1980s, when GDP growth was 3% to 4%, employment grew around 2%, Basole has found.

Back in Punjab, Blue Line counsellor Lovepreet said business was booming, with his agency handling some 40 clients a day.

“I have been doing this for four years,” said the 27-year-old, who gave only one name. “I am off to Canada myself, this year or next year. Politicians keep promising us government jobs, but no one delivers.”

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Unemployment Rate https://tmsnrt.rs/3KBgLNn

Labour participation rate (LPR) https://tmsnrt.rs/3KyAVYt

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(Reporting by Krishna N. Das and Aftab Ahmed; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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Supreme Court of Canada to rule on sentencing for Quebec City mosque shooter

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OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada is slated to rule Friday on the sentencing of a man who went on a deadly shooting spree at a Quebec City mosque.

The decision in Alexandre Bissonnette’s case will determine the constitutionality of a key provision on parole eligibility in multiple-murder convictions.

As a result, it will also reverberate far beyond the case before the court.

In March 2021, a judge found Alek Minassian guilty of 10 counts of first-degree murder, three years after he smashed into people with a van on a busy Toronto sidewalk. The judge decided to delay sentencing until after the Supreme Court decision.

At issue is the tension between society’s denunciation of such horrific crimes and the notion of rehabilitation as a fundamental value in sentencing.

Bissonnette pleaded guilty to six charges of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder in the January 2017 mosque assault that took place just after evening prayers.

In 2019, Bissonnette successfully challenged a 2011 law that allowed a court, in the event of multiple murders, to impose a life sentence and parole ineligibility periods of 25 years to be served consecutively for each murder.

A judge found the provision unconstitutional but saw no need to declare it invalid and instead read in new wording that would allow a court to impose consecutive periods of less than 25 years.

Ultimately, the judge ruled Bissonnette must wait 40 years before applying for parole.

Quebec’s Court of Appeal agreed that the sentencing provision violated Charter of Rights guarantees of life, liberty and security of the person, as well as freedom from cruel or unusual punishment.

“Parliament’s response to the problem identified is so extreme as to be disproportionate to any legitimate government interest,” the Appeal Court said.

“The judge was therefore right to conclude that the scope of the provision is clearly broader than necessary to achieve the objectives of denunciation and protection of the public.”

The Appeal Court, however, said the judge erred in making the ineligibility period 40 years.

It declared the sentencing provision constitutionally invalid and said the court must revert to the law as it stood before 2011, meaning the parole ineligibility periods are to be served concurrently — resulting in a total waiting period of 25 years in Bissonnette’s case.

The Court of Appeal noted there is no guarantee the Parole Board would grant Bissonnette parole in 25 years.

“This will depend on the circumstances at the time, including the appellant’s level of dangerousness, his potential for rehabilitation and the manner in which his personality has evolved,” the court said.

“Furthermore, as with any parole, if it is granted, it will include the necessary conditions for adequately ensuring the security of the public, failing which it will not be granted.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.

 

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

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Minke whale carcass found northeast of Montreal is likely one seen near city: expert

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MONTREAL — A dead whale found in the St. Lawrence River northeast of Montreal is probably one of two minke whales seen near the city earlier this month, a marine researcher said Thursday.

Robert Michaud, president of a Quebec marine mammal research group, said experts have yet to examine the carcass found in Contrecoeur, Que., about 50 kilometres downstream from Montreal.

Michaud said a necropsy could be performed depending on that assessment, adding that the task would fall to veterinary medicine students at Université de Montréal.

Two minke whales were spotted this month near Montreal, and there were concerns for their well-being, as they were about 450 kilometres upstream of their usual range.

Minke whales are common in Quebec but don’t generally venture west of the saltwater St. Lawrence estuary around Tadoussac, Que.

Ronald Gosselin, one of the fishermen behind the discovery on Thursday morning, said he was in his boat fishing when he saw a bizarre shape in the water.

“In my life, I’ve seen maybe two or three whales, including one that beached in Contrecoeur,” Gosselin said.

A local fishing guide, Gosselin, 66, said whales are not a common sight in the area. He spotted the mammal floating in the St. Lawrence River near Île Saint-Ours.

The two Montreal whales had not been seen since mid-May.

It’s unclear why whales occasionally venture into freshwater habitats, but Michaud has said there isn’t much that can be done to help them besides hoping they turn around and head home.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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Murray Sinclair honoured with Order of Canada at Rideau Hall ceremony

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OTTAWA — Murray Sinclair received the Order of Canada Thursday for dedicating his life to championing Indigenous Peoples’ rights and freedoms.

Sinclair held his wife’s hand as the award was announced in Rideau Hall, and was met with a standing ovation as he rose to receive it.

Gov. Gen. Mary Simon presented Sinclair with the award at the ceremony, which was held several months after it was announced he would receive the honour.

By accepting the award, Sinclair wanted to show the country that working on Indigenous issues calls for national attention and participation, he said in an interview.

Sinclair, 71, said at his age he has begun to reflect on his life, and he realizes that he’s had both the joy and sadness that comes with participating in this work.

Receiving the award recognizes the importance of that work, and can act as inspiration for younger people, Sinclair said.

“When I speak to young people, I always tell them that we all have a responsibility to do the best that we can and to be the best that we can be,” he said.

Sinclair led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated the experiences of Indigenous children sent to residential schools.

Sinclair said it was a particular honour to receive the award from Simon, the first Indigenous Governor General, as she is a good friend and was an honorary witness to the commission.

“As an Indigenous person, we had a unique relationship. And I think we brought it to what happened here today,” he said.

The former senator is a highly respected voice on matters of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

The Order of Canada is one of the country’s highest distinctions, for those who have made exceptional contributions to Canadian society.

Sinclair also received the Meritorious Service Cross for his role in overseeing the Truth and Reconciliation commission and producing the final report.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

 

Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press

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