By Shivaji Sarkar
At last the jobs are growing, says the labour bureau employment latest survey. This by 29 per cent in April-June quarter. The total employment rises to 3.08 crore compared to 2.3 crore jobs in 2013-14 seventh quarterly economic survey (QES) in manufacturing, health, education, IT/BPO, trade, financial services. During this period the highest rise is noticed in the IT/BPO sector by 152 per cent and employs about 6.7 per cent of the labour force.
Another aspect is the dipping of total number of employees on payrolls constantly since 2017 from 11.3 lakh employees to 10.9 lakh in 2018 and 10.3 lakh in 2019. The number of public sector employees has been coming down from 19.59 lakh in 1997-98 and by 2007, across United Front, NDA and UPA governments reduced to 16.14 lakh in 2006-7.
As per the February, 2020 survey of Department of Public Enterprises there has been sharp decline in the number of women employees during 2017-20. It dipped from 1.15 lakh in 2017 to 87,667, about 20 per cent in two years. While some experts consider the public sector to be a white elephant and revel at dwindling worker numbers, there are others who feel that PSUs are still relevant and need to be streamlined for many reasons including as the Navaratna PSUs have been doing to create a competitive atmosphere for the private sector. This apart there are views that the private sector has yet to mature and give quality employment.
The NITI Ayog CEO Amitabh Kant in the Aayog portal in 2020 commented, “though there is sufficient employment, but the true challenge is to create well-paying quality jobs”. He says the Periodic Labour Force Surveys (PLFS) presented a poor job scenario as the survey sample was small and inadequate.
India’s strength was a mixed economy, the government and the private, pre-1991. It had its problems too. The private sector had to face tough rules to be in competition. So the liberalisation was welcomed. It also saw a revamp in the PSU structures and the emergence of efficient, profit-making PSU carrying the tags of Navratnas and Mini-Navratnas. Many of these became globally competitive.
But policy changes and influence of the private sector saw those giants diminishing through various squeezes on creation of job positions and delayed decision making. While jobs and overall numbers of PSUs declined with gradual disinvestments, a proper model need to replicate those giants was largely absent. While a boost to the private sector is welcome, it also needs to be seen that they come up with their own models and survive not just on acquisition of public sector assets.
If India has to grow it needs both. In a number of areas like railway operations or power generation private sector has been lukewarm. They have tried to get into areas where they could have large profits without spending much like managing the railway stations or getting into power distribution private sector been lukewarm. This has not changed since the 1950s.
That is where a pragmatic private sector is needed or else the country has to rethink how the public is not only retained but gets back its strength. A country to make a firm progress has to have two different kinds of models.
The CMIE on September 3 report says urban unemployment rose to 9.78 per cent in August from 8.3 per cent in July and 10.07 per cent in June 2021. The urban unemployment rate was 7.27 per cent in March, just before the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic hit the country.
Another observation of the PLFS is that there has been a sharp increase in employment in agriculture from 42.5 per cent of the total employment in 2018-19 to The latest periodic PLFS report shows a sharp increase in employment in agriculture from 42.5 per cent of the total employment in 2018-19 to 45.6 per cent in 2019-20. Post pandemic the migrant labourers chose to work in the agriculture sector. There are another set of data that still put the numbers employed in the farm sector at 54 per cent and may have increased. It is sanctified by the free food dole being availed by 80 crore people and considered a great Indian achievement.
The figures can give different pictures. The NSSO’s periodic labour force survey (PLFS) for July 2019 – June 2020 mentions surge in female labour force participation rate, as evidenced in the latest and looks to be a positive sign, but there is a catch: much of this increase is in the most sub-optimal category of unpaid family workers. The worker lives with the unit’s proprietor and works for them but does not get paid for his/her services.
The family too works and adds to their wealth but are not paid. A report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) revealed in October 2020 that a whopping 94 per cent of women in India are employed in the informal sector as domestic workers.
As in many developing countries, India also showed signs of decline in agricultural employment corresponding to production. The employment rate for unpaid workers in household enterprises increased from 13.3 per cent in 2018-19 to 15.9 per cent in 2019-2020. For female workers, the employment for unpaid work increased to 35 per cent from 30 per cent in 2018-19.
India needs to look at this lowest level of subsistence. Amitabh Kant does not talk about them but stresses on the Rs 1.96 lakh crore Production-Linked Incentive scheme. He hopes it would generate an incremental production of $520 billion in five years and pave the way for $5 trillion economy. It is basically aimed at funding the private sector. Had this been aimed public sector the gains could have been more.
That jobs are not growing everywhere is also clear from QES. In many sectors there have been job losses like accommodation, travel, tourism and wage reduction in many others including the IT. He laments the taxes on fuel and certain other items are causing inflation.
This apart, the QES is limited to comparison giving a brighter look to the figures. Post-pandemic there are positive signs but still data may not be reflecting the reality. The job figures have to be studied in totality find out how it is helping every sector. The NITI Aayog should do that to set the pace for a holistic growth and happiness. — INFA