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.
Dr Upendra Singh, Director, Centre for Development Communication and Studies (CDECS), Jaipur, directed the focus of the situation to the micro-level. The working-age population should get the appropriate jobs matching their skill set and remuneration. This stems from the fact that there is a mismatch between a person’s knowledge and skills and the job they are aiming for.
There is a push and pull effect of demand and supply of labour in the market. The market, political system, and administration can be called the fulcrum which is determining the stability of the same. The focus should then be in identifying the sectors or states that are generating demand for labour and the type of opportunities they provide.
To mitigate the problem, Dr Singh suggested counselling systems, starting from high school, across the country. Stirring dedication and devotion, especially among the people who have been struggling to find opportunities, is imperative. Further, skill impartment should be through hands-on training. To this, Prof Ray emphasised the concept of collective entrepreneurship, which are missing in India, to strengthen the indigenous production process and reduce dependency on imports.
The Way Forward
- Creation of models through economic democracy for equal rights of the labour
- Development and institutional and capacity building starting at the local level
- Convergence of goals and practical skills and knowledge
- Recognizing the role of undocumented work and integrating it with economic growth for inclusivity and acceleration of jobs