The Unemployed | The Jobs Jigsaw

With the Lok Sabha election just months away, the leaked findings of the latest National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) report couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Narendra Modi government. The NSSO data shows that labour force participation has been decliningfrom 43 per cent in 2004-05, it came down to 40 per cent in 2009-10, 39.5 per cent in 2011-12 and slipped further to 36.9 per cent in 2017-18. The NSSO report also made a damning observation that unemployment is at a 45-year high.

The government, on its part, argued that the NSSO data was incomplete and not reflective of the changing employment dynamics in India. But the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), a private agency, had also pointed to a similar unemployment trend. Data released by CMIE said the unemployment rate rose from 3.39 per cent in July 2017 to 6.23 per cent in March 2018. While the number of unemployed nearly doubled, the number of jobs available fell to 406 million in the financial year 2017-18 from 406.7 million the year before.

Mahesh Vyas, CEO of CMIE, says the government needs to spur job growth by giving it a fiscal push. Yet, if there was expectation that the budget would offer incentives for hiring and give rural employment opportunities a boost, it was not to be. The only concession the budget made was allocating Rs 60,000 crore to the rural employment guarantee scheme MNREGA, an increase of Rs 5,000 crore over the previous budget.

The government has instead attempted to steer the debate towards the veracity of data. Finance minister Piyush Goyal says data gathering methods have not kept pace with the evolving nature of work in India.

Vilas Chhikara, founder of SnPC Machines, which shot to fame for producing a mobile brick-making machine under the government’s Make in India’ programme three years ago, says that the boost to entrepreneurship under the present government has propelled job growth. Digital India, the 2 per cent interest subvention on loans of Rs 1 crore for GST-registered MSMEs, the Udaan aviation scheme and new mobile manufacturing plants will promote new businesses, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, says Chhikara.

Manish Sabharwal, co-founder, TeamLease Services, an employment services firm, says the problem is underemployment. India has a wages issue. People are finally tired of self-exploitation. Aspirations are getting redefined, he says. n


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