Thousands of graduates and engineers compete for six India mortuary jobs

As the economy stutters under coronavirus conditions, overqualified people are applying for government jobs

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Thousands of engineers, postgraduates and graduates have applied for “corpse handler” jobs at an Indian hospital as unemployment levels soar.

Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College, a government-run hospital in eastern Kolkata city, received more than 8,000 applications for six positions of laboratory assistants, called “Dom” in mortuary terminology.

The job requires handling the dead, and applicants must have an education to middle school level (usually to 14 years old) and be aged between 18 and 45 years.

Skyrocketing Covid-19 infections and deaths are collapsing overwhelmed hospitals in the Southeast Asian nation of nearly 270 million, which is overtaking India as Asia's virus epicentre. AFP

But an army of overqualified applicants, including more than 100 engineers, 500 postgraduates and 2,200 graduates are competing for the positions that offer a monthly salary of Rs 15,000 ($200).

More than 775 candidates, including some engineers and postgraduates, were put on a shortlist for a written test next week.

A hospital official said they were “shocked” after receiving applications from engineers and postgraduates but said they could not bar them from sitting the test.

“We cannot stop them from applying, but this is just sad and shocking. Someone who has completed higher studies is applying for a job that needs almost nil education,” the official told The National.

“Normally family members of the current or former staff were interested in such jobs.”

Although elusive and scarce, government jobs in India are highly valued as they often provide an edge in social status compared to private jobs.

But the overwhelming response for the low-paying job from highly-qualified candidates is the latest example of growing desperation among Indian jobseekers in a country that is reeling from high unemployment.

India’s economy was in freefall and joblessness levels were rising before the coronavirus pandemic made the crisis worse.

India registered negative growth in the last fiscal year and unemployment rates hit 23 per cent in April 2020, when a weeks-long coronavirus lockdown was imposed that led to businesses closures and millions of job losses.

There are no official figures on job loss numbers because of the pandemic, but about 21 million people are estimated to have been put out of work between April and August 2020, according to a report by think tank Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy.

More than 80 per cent of workers in the informal sector had also lost employment in 2020, according to a survey by Action Aid.

Unemployment rates were 14.45 per cent in May, according to latest CMIE figures, up from 6.9 per cent in February when the second pandemic wave started sweeping the country.

Updated: November 01, 2021, 10:21 AM