Lillian D’Costa, 32, left the idyllic village of Saligao in north Goa where she had spent her childhood years. She moved to Bangalore, in neighbouring Karnataka five years ago.
“I had reached a point where I wasn’t growing any more and realised I needed a change,” she recalls. “I’m sure that Goa offers a better quality of life than many other states, but that’s if you’re economically well-placed. If you’re young and need opportunities for growth, Goa does not work.”
Ashwina Souza, 23, left her family in the southern Goan town of Vasco last year to pursue a Ph.D in Industrial Psychology in Mumbai. “My seniors told me that the faculty here in Goa was not as good as in Mumbai. Besides, in a place like Mumbai, there are so many industries. They need people like us. Among my circle of friends, many have left Goa perhaps six or eight out of 10.”
Two voices of young women professionals from a state that has recorded the highest per capita income among all Indian states in a 2009-10, according to the central statistical office.
However, a study by the Labour Bureau of the Ministry of Labour and Employment also reveals that Goa has the highest unemployment rate in the country. What’s worse, according to another study conducted by Goa’s Ministry of Labour in 2009, only one-fourth of those employed in the state are women.
These figures imply that not only is Goa’s wealth not distributed equally across all sections of society, its working women are clearly marginal players in the state’s economy. Unless efforts are made to reverse this trend, Goa stands to lose young talents, with many youngsters like Lillian and Ashwina being forced to leave home for educational and employment opportunities in other states. Indeed, they are left with little choice, given the rising inflation and high cost of living in Goa.
Perhaps in response to the impending crisis, Goa recently became the first state in India to announce a dole for jobless youth. But such political gestures are merely symbolic. There still isn’t much public discussion about creating jobs for the state’s 80,000 people registered with the Employment Exchange.
There is widespread consensus in Goa that higher education in the state does not prepare graduates for real jobs. While the state has focused on primary education, higher education appears to have stagnated. Public perception is that it is best to earn one’s degree or post-graduate qualification outside the state if one can afford to do so.
Of course, women students are full of expectations. Take Zaheera Vaz, 20, who is about to start her Master’s degree course in Political Science at Goa University. She is keen to have extra-curricular activities that could help her develop her analytical skills. Nashoma De Jesus, 22, who is currently finishing her Master’s degree in International Studies at Goa University, would like more field experience. “The education system is too theoretical. We need more exposure while we’re studying. Internships should be mandatory,” she argues.
Those who don’t leave the state and are lucky enough to find jobs after they graduate, get meager salaries. Aglin Barretto, 23, has a Master’s degree in Counselling Psychology and works in two schools as a counsellor.
Both opportunities and salaries are lower in Goa than elsewhere and that is a source of anger for young women like Skitter Faia, 32, who works in a PR firm in state capital Panaji. “I hear a lot of people talking about job security and I think that means a government job where you can work or not work and still take a salary home,” observes Faia.
Others feel that appreciation and promotions don’t easily come the way of women employees. Clara Rodrigues, 24, a journalist based in Saligao, rues the fact that the glass ceiling obstructs many ambitions women may harbour.
But this does not mean that women have stopped dreaming of personal growth and freedom. Interestingly, one of the reasons why many young women here prefer to migrate out of the state is to free themselves from the dictate of conservative families and the norms that mark rural life.
Despite the stereotypes fostered by the coastal tourist belt, life in Goa’s hinterland is fairly restrictive for young women and the general outlook is narrow.
Says D’Costa, “The government wants to invite only ‘clean’ industries to the state. With its good roads, broadband connectively and relatively cheaper land, it could easily attract the IT industry. IT companies are moving out of Bangalore to places like Chennai and Vellore, but why aren’t they coming to Goa? Bangalore was once known as a retiree’s city, but now it has reinvented itself as a world city. Why can’t Goa make the same transition?”
If Goa has to keep pace with the hopes and expectations of women like D’Costa, it would need to do much more to expand employment opportunities for young professionals.