The issue of unemployment remains a prominent topic for political and social discussion, exacerbated by the COVID-19 lockdown. With this in mind, Centre for Work and Welfare (CWW) at the IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute and Centre for Development, Communication and Studies (CDECS), Jaipur organized a panel discussion under The State of Development Discourses – #CohesiveDevelopment on “How to Resolve Unemployment Problem in India”
Dr Arjun Kumar, Director at IMPRI gave a brief presentation to provide an overview of the unemployment crisis in India. The sources of employment statistics in India include Census, National Sample Surveys (NSS), Periodic Labour Force Surveys (PLFS), Labour Bureau, Chandigarh, Government Registries such as Employment Exchange and Migration Data, Private Databases such as Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) and IMPRI, Government Databases such as Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) and MNREGS, Corporate Databases such as Naukri.com and LinkedIn, and Independent HR.
Looking at the trends in unemployment, certain features stand out:
- Since 2010, the unemployment rate has been declining across all age groups.
- Starting from 2017, the rate hovered around 4%, rising to 6-7% within two years and jumping to 25% due to the lockdown measures. The rate then moved in tandem with the COVID-19 waves. The rise in the unemployment rate during the second wave was not as devastating as the first one.
- Among daily wage workers and salaries workers, the former have been the most hard- hit.
- Women’s labour force participation has been declining, especially the youth in the marginalised classes.
- India has not been able to reap the benefits of demographic dividend as only 5.5 million additional jobs have been created against 8 million youth joining the labour force during 2017-18.
Lack of policy and statistical architecture including industrial policy and employment policy, youth and female unemployment, and livelihoods in lockdown are pertinent issues facing policy makers and the country.
Ms Sonia George, Secretary, Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), Kerala, called for rethinking the definition of unemployment. The binary concepts of employment and unemployment do not seem to work when we consider that most people employed in the informal sector are not considered to be ‘job-seekers’. For example, services, frontline and home-based workers.
National Rural Livelihood Mission, National Urban Livelihood Mission and other government programs are based on the concept of building self-help groups for credit and skill. Ms George questioned the ability and sustainability of these methods to generate jobs and enterprises.
Unpaid labour of women has largely subsidized the economy. In addition to this, the care economy also remains undocumented. Establishment of these jobs and strengthening social security are some solutions. Incorporation of these in the formalization process and consideration as a source for employment generation is the way forward.