More than 20 per cent of rural youth in nine States are unsure of what career to pursue. This is based on the Annual Status of Education Report 2023, released by the NGO Pratham Foundation. The report surveys rural youngsters in 25 States and Jammu and Kashmir.

While across India, 21 per cent of youngsters couldn’t name a career they wanted to pick, a closer look at the data shows that preferences vary across genders and geographies. While army and ‘police’ were the most popular career options among boys (13.8 per cent and 13.6 per cent respectively), 16 per cent of girls said they wanted to be teachers, making it the most popular career option among them. Also, 14.8 per cent of girls said that they wanted to be doctors.

Doctors of Kashmir, nurses of Kerala

In some States, the proportion of rural youngsters unsure about their careers was quite low — case in point, Jammu and Kashmir. In the Union Territory, the survey was conducted in Anantnag. Here, 41.7 per cent of girls from rural areas stated that they wanted to be doctors.

In Himachal Pradesh 42.3 per cent of the boys said that they wanted to join the Army. The survey was conducted in the State’s Kangra district. Interestingly, IX Corps of the Indian Army is headquartered in Yol in Kangra. In Uttarakhand too, 37.9 per cent of the boys wanted to be army officers.

In Rajasthan, close to 34 per cent of the girls in rural areas wanted to be teachers. In Kerala, 33 per cent of girls said that they wanted to be nurses. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s data updated during the pandemic showed that Kerala had the most number of nurses and that 22 per cent of the total registered nurses in India were from Kerala. ASER’s report also shows that 54.4 per cent of the young people with specific work aspirations knew someone already working in that field. 

In Karnataka and Maharashtra, more than a quarter of young boys in rural areas said that they wanted to be police officers. Tamil Nadu was the only state where engineering was the popular profession. Of all the boys surveyed in the state, 24 per cent said that they wanted to be engineers.

Deciding factors

The survey report notes that the choices of these young people were affected by their socio-economic upbringing and gender. “For example, in the survey data for Hathras (Uttar Pradesh), over a third of girls and young women were unable to identify a work aspiration. This is echoed with girls in Sitapur, among whom any type of work aspiration seemed difficult to conceive of, let alone articulate clearly. Their envisaged pathways forward centred on their roles as homemakers, and income-earning possibilities were limited to skills that would not conflict with housework and that could be deployed at home — tailoring and beauty,” the survey reads, adding that for boys, income generation was a priority.