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  • Writer's pictureDr Sp Mishra

Present & Future of Higher Education & Formal Job Sector in India

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This is a must-read for Parents of Gen Z and Gen Alpha in India.

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As a career counsellor, I frequently receive questions from inquisitive parents about selecting courses and suitable career paths. Many are unaware of the current state of our higher education system and its connection to the formal job sector in India. But I feel to understand future work opportunities (formal jobs), we should have complete knowledge about higher education and the state of formal jobs in India.

State of Higher Education in India

India boasts one of the most robust higher education systems globally, evident from the extensive figures provided in the AISHE 2021-22 report issued by the Ministry of Education.

Type of Institutions

The report indicates a total of 1,168 Universities/University level Institutions, 45,473 Colleges, and 12,002 Stand Alone Institutions were officially registered in the AISHE 2021-22.

Out of the 1,162 Universities that participated in the survey, 655 were General, 192 were Technical, 57 were Agriculture & Allied, 79 were Medical, 27 were Law, 19 were Sanskrit, and 8 were Language Universities, with the remaining 125 falling under other specialized categories.

Total Enrollments

The total enrollment in higher education has surged to almost 4.33 crore in 2021-22 from 4.14 crore in 2020-21 (an increase of 18.87 Lakh, 4.6%), and 3.42 crores in 2014-15 (a rise of 26.5%).

In the academic year 2021-22, the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) in higher education for 18-23-year-olds rose to 28.4, up from 27.3 in 2020-21 and 23.7 in 2014-15 based on 2011 census projections. The majority, 78.9%, are pursuing undergraduate degrees, with 12.1% in postgraduate programs.

Arts programs dominate undergraduate enrollment at 34.2%, followed by Science, Commerce, and Engineering & Technology. Postgraduate studies see Social Sciences leading with 21.1% enrollment. PhD enrollments surged by 81.2% to 2.13 lakh in 2021-22. Total STEM enrollment at UG, PG, PhD, and M.Phil. levels is 98.5 lakh, comprising 25.6% of total enrollment. Notably, female enrollment in Science surpasses males.


The total number of graduates has increased to 1.07 crore in 2021-22, compared to 95.4 lakh in 2020-21.

In the academic landscape, undergraduate degrees reign supreme, with a Bachelor of Arts leading the pack at 24.16 lakh graduates, trailed by a Bachelor of Science at 12.53 lakh, a Bachelor of Commerce at 11.08 lakh, and a combined 8.47 lakh for a Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor of Technology. Diploma holders total 9.2 lakh. At the postgraduate tier, Master of Arts claims the throne with 7.02 lakh graduates, followed by Master of Science at 3.56 lakh, Master of Business Administration at 2.32 lakh, and Master of Commerce at 1.9 lakh. PhDs in 2021-22 numbered 32,588, with males at 18,464 and females at 14,124. Science leads in PhDs with 7,408, closely followed by Engineering & Technology with 6,270.

Enrollment and Passout Trends:

Year-wise Gross Enrolments and Passouts in the previous years are shown here, there has been a steady growth of gross enrollments and pass-outs over the years.

2018-19 – 3.74 Crore enrolled, Pass-out was 80,42,379

2019-20 – 3.85 Crore enrolled, Pass-out was 94,01,910

2020-21 – 4.13 Crore enrolled, Pass-out was 95,40,810

2021-22 - 4.33 Crore enrolled, Pass-out was 1.07 Crore

Formal Job Sector in India

To gain insights into how the formal job sector is absorbing recent college graduates across various industries, it is crucial to delve into the data provided by the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO). The EPFO data stands out as the most reliable and publicly available source of information when it comes to understanding the trends in formal sector employment. By analyzing the annual net EPFO new subscribers, we can obtain a comprehensive overview of how recent college graduates are entering the workforce and contributing to different industries. The year-wise data on EPFO new subscribers offers a detailed glimpse into the dynamics of formal sector employment over time. By examining this data closely, we can identify patterns, fluctuations, and changes in the job market for college graduates. This information is invaluable for policymakers, educators, and job seekers alike, as it provides a clear picture of the opportunities available in various industries and the overall health of the formal job sector. Understanding the nuances of this data can help in making informed decisions regarding career choices, skill development, and workforce planning. It also sheds light on the demand for young professionals in different sectors and highlights areas that may require attention in terms of employment generation and skill development initiatives. In conclusion, the EPFO data serves as a valuable tool for analyzing the absorption of recent college graduates in the formal job sector. By leveraging this information effectively, stakeholders can gain a deeper understanding of the employment landscape and work towards creating a more robust and inclusive workforce for the future.
















Please bear in mind that the data provided pertains to individuals between the ages of 18 and 65. It is worth highlighting that the younger segment, especially recent graduates, usually belongs to the 22-28 age bracket. The table presented below details the estimated count of new hires falling within this 22-28 age group.
















Based on the data provided in the latest EPFO report, we can identify the top sectors providing job opportunities in the formal job sector in India by analysing the net new payroll additions in different industries. Here are the top sectors based on the net new payroll additions:

Professional Services: This sector consistently records significant increases in new payroll across various periods, reflecting a strong demand for expert services.

Trading - Commercial Sector: The trading and commercial sector shows considerable growth in new payroll, indicating job prospects in this area.

Electrical, Mechanical, or General Engineering Products: The sector focusing on electrical, mechanical, or general engineering products demonstrates substantial growth in new payroll, pointing to job opportunities in this field.

Engineering Contractors: The engineering contractors sector experiences noteworthy increases in new payroll, highlighting job prospects in this field.

Building and Construction: The building and construction industry displays significant growth in new payroll, indicating job opportunities in this sector.

Financial Services: The financing establishment sector shows notable growth in new payroll, suggesting job opportunities in financial services.

Cleaning and Sweeping Services: This sector experiences significant growth in new payroll, emphasizing job opportunities in cleaning and sweeping services.

Computer Manufacturing, Marketing, Servicing, and Usage: The computer-related sector demonstrates significant growth in new payroll, indicating job opportunities in the IT industry.

Textile Industry: The textile sector displays notable growth in new payroll, suggesting job opportunities in this industry.

These industries consistently rank at the top for significant increases in net new payrolls, showcasing formal job openings and expansion within these specific sectors. The data presented supports the reasoning behind recognizing these sectors as the primary sources of job opportunities due to their net new payroll additions.

The EPFO report identifies the top ten Indian states providing a wealth of formal employment opportunities for people aged 22-28. These states are Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Haryana, Delhi, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Rajasthan. The report notes substantial net new additions to the payroll in the 22-28 age bracket across these states, signifying the availability of numerous formal job openings for individuals in this age group within diverse sectors.

What Parents should understand from the above?

As parents of both young and adult children, it is crucial to recognize that competition in India will intensify in the future due to the country's median age being approximately 28-29 years. This will lead to a rising demand for higher education and formal employment opportunities. It is evident that the formal job market can only accommodate a limited number of graduates, as its growth is gradual and contingent on government investments in infrastructure and policy reforms to stimulate business activities. The manufacturing sector is poised for substantial expansion in the upcoming years and decades, supported by the Indian government's substantial investments in Production Linked Incentive (PLI) schemes. Furthermore, India has been a dominant player in service exports for many years, underscoring its significance in the national economy despite not expecting exponential growth in this sector.

My suggestions to the parents;

  1. Don't push your children into the traditional career options, if their heart is in something else. In any case, the level of competition will only increase in the years to come.

  2. Don't try to push your child into a career path based on what you are seeing as glamorous now, because what seems good today, may become redundant by the time your child is out in the marketplace for a job.

  3. Encourage students/children to start doing part-time jobs/internships in their area of interest or otherwise. It will help them to learn the importance of earning money from early in life. it will also help them learn how to work in different environments with different people. This will also help build their profiles.

  4. Still confused about what to do? Connect with a Career Counsellor on a long-term basis, because the schools and colleges may not be able to give personalized attention to your child all the time to prepare her/him for the unknown future.

  5. For one-to-one career guidance, please contact me at 9963300577 or write to me at or Book a 15-minute call for Career Guidance.

6. I have written a book about parenting (for the Parents of Gen Z and Gen Alpha kids), you may wish to read it.

My book is available on the following platforms; (What They Don't Teach in School?) ⁠Kindle & Paperback: ⁠⁠

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