The NSSO’s 68th round (2011-12) provides estimates of
education levels and job market indicators across major religious
communities in India.
The educational attainment of Muslims is the least among
all these communities. In urban areas, the number of male Muslim postgraduates
is as low as 15 per 1,000.
This number is about four times lower than that of other
communities, including Hindus, Christians and Sikhs.
The situation is similar for Muslim women.
The number of male graduates among Muslims is 71 per
1,000, less than even half the number of graduates (per 1,000) in other
Similarly, the number of Muslims educated up to the
secondary and higher secondary levels is 162 and 90 per 1,000 persons,
respectively, again the least among all the communities.
Poor achievement at higher levels of education is
partly a reflection of sinilarly low levels of school education or of
Around half the Muslim population over 15 years is either
illiterate or has only primary or middle school education.
The number of illiterate people is highest among Muslims
(190 per 1,000), followed by Hindus (84), Sikhs (79) and Christians (57). The
number of persons (over 15 years) who have obtained just primary or middle
school education among Muslims is 257 and 198 (per 1,000 persons), respectively.
The distribution of the Muslim population is least at the
higher levels of education and highest at the lower levels of education.
The number of Muslim males of 5-14 years in urban areas
attending educational institutions is 869 per 1,000 persons, which is the least
among all religious groups.
It is higher among Christians (981), followed by Sikhs
(971), though it is lower among Hindus (955), possibly because Scheduled Castes
and Scheduled Tribes have lower rates.
The gaps in the current attendance rates of Muslims and
those of other religious groups are increasingly pronounced at higher age
That Muslims have the lowest attendance rates and
educational attainment, especially in higher education, can be explained by
their income level and higher costs for post-secondary education.
According to the NSSO survey, the average per capita
consumption expenditure (used as an indicator of income) among Muslims is just
₹32.66 per day, which is the least among all religious groups.
It is highest among Sikhs (₹55.30), followed by Christians
(₹51.43) and Hindus (₹37.50). As per the 71st NSSO survey on education (2014),
the average course fee for college degrees in technical courses in government
and private unaided institutions was ₹25,783 and ₹64,442, respectively.
That is too high for Muslims to afford, given their per
The high level of illiteracy among Muslims and the low
levels of general education ensure that they are trapped in a vicious circle
The lack of higher education is adversely affecting their
job indicators. The dynamics of labour markets are largely a function of the
degrees of knowledge and skills.
The labour force participation rate (LFPR), defined as the
number of persons either employed or seeking jobs, is significantly linked to
the desire for work, which in turn is dependent upon educational attainment.
The quality of employment is strongly linked to levels of
education and skills.
Therefore, if a community is lagging in education, it
risks being trapped in a vicious circle of poverty.
This is a situation that is difficult to break out of
without government intervention.
The signs of Indian Muslims being caught in a vicious
circle of poverty are visible in terms of their low consumption expenditure and
poor job market indicators, including LFPR, employment status, and worker
The NSSO data show that LFPR among Muslims is 342 and 337
(per 1,000) in urban and rural areas, respectively, the least among all the
This implies that only 342 persons per 1,000 persons of
working age among Muslims in urban areas are employed or available for work.
The LFPR among Muslim women is worse than that among women
of other communities.
Muslims live predominantly in urban areas are where work
outside the home could be available, this low LFPR is likely explained by their
low levels of education.