Not so Acche Din. Massive job loss data, especially in rural India, emerges. Who is answerable?

Narendra Modi had promised jobs in 2014. In December 2018, the unemployment rate was at its highest in 27 months, according to CMIE data. Women, rural Indians and the young have been hit hard. Where are their jobs?

 |  5-minute read |   09-01-2019
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India’s unemployment rate has been rising steadily through 2018, with levels peaking to the highest in 27 months at 7.38 per cent as of December 2018, according to latest data by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) of the Azim Premji University. 

Analysis of the report showed that individuals from vulnerable groups, namely women, the uneducated, wage labourers, agricultural labourers and small traders, are the worst hit by job losses in 2018.

The report titled 'Unemployment Rate in India' was released on Tuesday and says that rapidly rising unemployment is the biggest challenge India's policymakers and administrators are facing. 

The 'unfair' sex 

The data says that women were significantly impacted by job losses during 2018 — out of the 11 million jobs lost, women accounted for 8.8 million jobs whereas men lost 2.2 million jobs.

Analysing the data revealed that rural women are the worst hit — especially those who are uneducated, engaged as labourers or a small-scale trader and below 40 years of age or over 60 years. Around 6.5 million rural women lost their jobs, whereas the number of urban women who lost their jobs was 2.3 million.

Men were not as affected by the job losses — urban men actually gained 5,00,000 jobs, whereas 2.3 million rural men lost their jobs, the report said.

The maximum job losses were reported in the rural sector that accounts for two-thirds of India's population — 84 per cent. 

main_unemployed-wome_010919053014.jpegFemale labourers wearing helmets laying underground electricity cables in Ahmedabad. (Photo: Reuters)

Not willing to work?

Interestingly, along with the dip in the employment rate, there has also been a dip in the estimated Labour Participation Rate (LPR), the data found. LPR is the proportion of working-age people who are willing to work and are either actually working or actively looking for work. 

According to CMIE, the estimated LPR came down to 42.47 in December 2018 from 43.57 in December 2017. 

main_youth-unemploye_010919053627.jpgUnemployment is rapidly rising in India, but the number of people looking for jobs is on the decline. (Representational image: IANS)

While this could partly be attributed to the wave of self-employment in the country, the CMIE report shows that an average educated Indian youth still prefers a salaried job in the organised sector over entrepreneurship.

The silver lining to the unemployment cloud — self-employment

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always emphasised strongly the importance of entrepreneurship — launching schemes like the Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme, the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Grameen Kaushalya Yojana and the Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission to promote self-employment. This has been a partial success — the data reveals that there were 41.9 million self-employed entrepreneurs in India in January-April 2016. 

By May-August 2018, the count of self-employed entrepreneurs had risen to 63.9 million.

In fact, the count of entrepreneurs increased in every survey conducted by CMIE since 2016. 

main_startups_010919055143.jpgDid 'Make in India' and the start-up boom automatically imply 'Acche Din'? No, we don't think so. (Photo: Reuters)

However, their marginal growth — in the face of the rapidly crashing formal job market — is not something to be so proud of.

The eternal debate — entrepreneurship vs salaried employment 

The growth of self-employed entrepreneurs notwithstanding, the most preferred employment of the average young educated Indian is of salaried employment, the report states.

“When we say that we need to create 12 million jobs every year to absorb the influx of new entrants into the labour market, we imply government jobs or a monthly salary in the organised private sector. Self-employment is not a job in any sense that young aspirational educated India appreciates or even understands," the report categorically states. 

main_unemployment-2_010919053656.jpgDaily wage workers wait for employment on a street at an industrial area in Mumbai. (Photo: Reuters)

"The emphasis here is on the educated young population. Uneducated and middle-aged employment seekers do not have many choices. They are driven by compulsions. So, when it comes to choices or preferences we must restrict our discussions to the educated,” the report adds.  

Any answer, Mr Prime Minister?

The Modi government has come under strong criticism following the unemployment data, particularly as Modi himself had made an electoral promise of adding 20 million jobs a year. 

Numbers show that the country needs to create 13.5 million jobs every year.

With the 2019 elections at our doorstep, the country will add 133 million first-time voters to its electorate. Add to this their counterparts from 2014 and the total is at 300 million.

mainwaves_010919054248.jpgAn Unemployment Wave (L) vs A Modi Wave (R). (Photo: DailyO)

According to the election commission, the total voters stand at 850 million — clearly, the young employable population forms a significant part of this.

The country’s aspiration was, is, and will be for decent jobs.

The promise was made in 2014 of creating jobs.

It has been over four years since you took the job of the Prime Minister — we are waiting for our jobs, Mr Modi.

Also read: Where are the jobs in new India? BJP has done worse than Congress


Rajeshwari Ganesan Rajeshwari Ganesan @rajeshwaridotg

The author writes on wildlife, environment, gender issues, science, health, books and a host of other topics. A professional journalist and a passionate environmentalist. Assistant Editor, DailyO.

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