Despite India's massive infrastructure requirements, flawed policies and outdated curricula mean civil engineering is no longer a concrete caree
Historically one of the country's most highly respected professions, civil engineering was long revered due to its association with government jobs and the status and security they offered. As with other fields, the overall pool of civil engineering graduates is increasing. The Human Resource Development’s All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) reported that 28 percent (6.3 lakh) of BTech grads majored in civil engineering in 2016. A few institutions also offer the related degrees: Bachelors of Engineering (Civil) and Bachelors of Civil Engineers (BCE).
But with increasing competition, changing requirements, and a lack of desirable jobs in the market, the profession is losing its sheen. As the Indian Express reported recently, Bachelors in Engineering and in Technology (BE/BTech) from all branches are facing a gap between supply and demand of employment opportunities.
VICE surveyed placement data from nearly 20 of the top 100 colleges in India to find that in terms of jobs offered and actual placements, civil engineers are behind only the far less popular fields of chemical engineering and metallurgy. Students still opt for civil engineering because of its prestige, despite the relatively lower marks required—compared to electronics, mechanical and computer science. But they are being let down by outdated curricula, a lack of diversification in skills, and larger economic factors, such as the slowdown of the real estate market and—more dramatically— the still unravelling impact of recent government policies like demonetisation, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Act and the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act (RERA).
Through conversations with placement officers and students, as well as by accessing public placement data, VICE determined that even within a dozen of the top 100 engineering colleges (as ranked by the MHRD’s National Institute Ranking Framework 2017), the placements and offers for civil engineers cratered after 2015. The placement data we accessed (from 2013) shows a sizable decline in placements taken or job offers received by civil engineers in 2016 and 2017.
In part, this is because there were simply fewer jobs available. Civil engineers are typically hired in the overlapping sectors of construction, infrastructure and real estate, all of which have been hit by various factors, including demonetisation.
Job creation has been sluggish across industries over the past few years. The construction sector has suffered particularly, with a 6.27 percent decline in employment (that’s 23,000 jobs lost) according to the Labour Bureau’s Quarterly Employment Survey from January 2017.
The real estate sector—India’s third largest employer—is also in trouble, with international property consultancy Knight Frank reporting “the largest percentage drop in supply volumes this decade” in 2017. This report attributes the drop to “tumultuous events over the past 14 months that saw the government aggressively push a culture of transparency through measures such as Demonetisation, Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2017 (RERA).”
Others argue this reckoning was inevitable, with or without the policy changes. Rajeev Talwar, Managing Director of DLF Developers Ltd., one of India’s largest developers, told VICE it was just the nature of the market. “It is a cyclical industry, not only in India, but all over the world,” he said while agreeing that buyer sentiment is down.