A report by the National Sample Survey Office’s (NSSO’s) on the periodic labour force survey (PLFS) revealed that India’s unemployment rate stood at a 45-year high of 6.1 percent during 2017-18.Further, the report also showed that joblessness in urban areas was higher than that in rural areas (7.8 percent in urban areas, whereas 5.3 percent in rural areas). To make matters worse, more people are withdrawing from the work-force as the labour force participation rate (LFPR) stood at a lower level than the previous few years. These findings are quite concerning as in a few years, India will become the youngest country in the world with the highest population of young people under the age of 30 years. The median age in the country would be as young as 28 as compared to the 45 in Western Europe and 37 in China and US. China’s economy has already benefitted from their demographic dividend and now it is up to India to derive the best of its youth. But development is not a default by-product of demographic dividend.
This report is especially telling because two non-governmental National Statistical Commission (NSC) members, PC Mohanan and JV Meenakshi, resigned earlier this week over disagreements with the government. They alleged that the government was not taking the reports of the NSC seriously and their advice was being side-lined by the government. Further, the government was delaying the release of the report despite NSC approval.This goes to show that the government is not doing effective policymaking which takes into consideration the existing ground realities of the country. The delay in the release of reports has dreadful consequences for addressing the job crisis in the country.
Is the delay an attempt by the government to cover the harsh truth from the people? This is a huge step back for the government which has already been slammed before for not adhering to the standards of openness and transparency that is expected of the world’s largest democracy. A case is also to be made that this denies people the basic Right to Information which is vital in a democracy.
This is the most comprehensive survey on employment conducted by a government agency after the Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced demonetization of a high valued-currency in November 2016. Demonetization has been criticised as a major policy misstep which has huge repercussions for the economy and has perhaps exacerbated the unemployment problem in the country. The concerning unemployment figures also mean that the economy is not growing at a desirable level.
The Modi government has been incompetent in dealing with the problem of unemployment in the country, something which was one of the major promises on which Modi fought his campaign in the previous general elections. In the light of the recent developments, will the Modi government be able to bounce back from this major setback?
What will the government do to deal with the unemployment problem in the country now that the data is out in the open in the open? The ground realities need to be explored and analysed so that targeted policies can be implemented at the earliest.