Jobs data public goods, govt must release it: Mohanan

Jobs data public goods, govt must release it: Mohanan

The former acting chairman of the National Statistical Commission P C Mohanan said that the Modi government should release unemployment data it had withheld from the public, describing the data as public goods. 

"The government has spent a lot of money collecting this data," Mohanan said. "That date should be in the public domain and in a democratic society, it is the duty of the government to explain and bring out the figures. This data can be regarded as public goods belong to the public, which should be accessible by them." 

Mohanan was speaking in Bengaluru on the sidelines of an event held by the Azim Premji University to launch a report on the current state of employment in the country. 

He expressed bewilderment over the government's decision to withhold the statistics from the public. But when asked about whether this had anything to do with possible embarrassment on the part of the Modi administration's over falling economic figures in the wake of demonetisation, he responded that he could not make this determination because the nature of his commission's survey did not take into consideration the work history of households. 

"In our survey, we simply asked every member of households whether or not they were employed. If they are not working, we do not ask them if they were working earlier why they lost the job – that kind of analysis we cannot do. Because of this, we cannot make the assessment that demonetization is responsible for declines in job creation and employment," Mohanan said. 

However, according to Amit Basole, Associate Professor at Azim Premji University and leading author of the work-study entitled "State of Working India 2019," this is a conclusion that can be drawn. Despite the lack of official unemployment figures, Basole postulated that the employment statistics collected by the university clearly indicate the scale of unemployment in the country. Data showing trends of employment in rural and urban areas, show a sharp decline in jobs, starting in January 2017. Demonetisation came into effect on November 8, 2016. 

Mohanan resigned from the commission on January 28 in protest over the government's delay in releasing new job statistics. Those job numbers, which were leaked to the media 3 days later, showed India's unemployment rate until June 2018 was 6.1% - the highest in 45 years.

'How can the economy grow when jobs aren't rising?'

When asked how the economy can be described as growing when employment has not grown, Mohanan explained that while almost 60% of Indian's workers are employed in agriculture, they contribute just 16% to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). "So, even if we have a decline in agricultural output, the GDP is not going to be affected," Mohanan said. "Our GDP growth is generated by other sectors, and employment is not going in those sectors. Employment is stuck in agriculture and non-commercial household enterprises, which does not contribute to the GDP," Mohanan clarified.

He added. "For years, the statistical data showed little changes in poverty and employment rates. But recently, there were changes and even in the leaked report, we can see these changes. For example, a lot of good things happened in our education system with data showing that a majority of girls in rural areas are studying up to 21 years when previously they used to drop out at the age of 13."