NDA govt yet to frame employment policy

NDA govt yet to frame employment policy

The employment scenario has never been reassuring in a poor country like India. When the country won independence, the citizens were promised of getting rid of poverty and unemployment. But no government of independent India could claim any big success in eliminating these two problems which affect most of the population in the country.

If we look at policies of the successive governments, we see that there has not been any attempt to make an employment policy which should specifically address the problem. No government charted out a roadmap of giving employment to everyone who joins the labour force.

Of course, we observe some departure in programmes like Employment Guarantee Scheme in Maharashtra and in MGNREGA, a flagship rural job programme initiated by the Manmohan Singh government. Both, however, are primarily meant to address distress situation in agriculture and are more a social security programme than an employment generating one. 

The Narendra Modi government is following the same policy of indirectly addressing the problem. It also believes that high growth will lead to increase in the rate of employment. It had been common during the period of earlier governments to  blame slow growth of economy for the high rate of unemployment. These governments believed that a high rate of growth will address the twin problems of poverty and unemployment.

However, this excuse lost its relevance after the adoption of liberal economic policies. The economy showed high rate of growth among emerging economies even during the peak of global recession. But it did not change the scenario of unemployment despite repeated claims by the governments that they would make growth process an inclusive one and that employment would be generated. The present government has also acknowledged this aspect of the growth process but hardly has any policy to address it.

The employment scenario in the country has been a topic of intense debate among academics and policy planners. But they could never find out the way to deal with the lack of proper data. Despite this handicap, they have been attempting to analyse the trend and find solutions to contain unemployment. A Report on Employment, 2014 by the Delhi-based Institute of Human Development has analysed data in the context of globalisation and mapped out trends during last two and half decades.

The report says, “Even today, the large proportion of workers engaged in agriculture (about 49%) contributes a mere 14% to the GDP. In contrast, the services sector which contributes 58% of the GDP, barely generates 27% of the employment, and the share of manufacturing in both employment (13%) and GDP (16%) is much lower.” It shows an imbalance in the growth process which has not been found in any part of the industrial world. This reveals the lopsidedness of the Indian growth story.

The imbalance not only reflects the inability of the economy to provide employment to those who need it, but also its inability to meet the requirement of global competition because of its poor performance in the manufacturing sector. Growth of the services sector is largely a result of outsourcing by the foreign countries in IT sector and BPO.

Decent jobs
The nature of employment has also been far from what the International Labour Organisation terms as ‘decent jobs’. Larger proportion of those employed is in the unorganised sector. It constitutes around 93% of the total workforce. Only 7-8% of the workers are in full time regular employment with better wages and social security. The workers in unorganised sectors are low paid and without or little social security cover, pension, health facilities and other facilities.

One more aspect of the employment scene that has been causing concern is the low participation of women in workforce. The latest Economic Survey (2015-16) says that the government is keen to address the problems of low participation of women in workforce. It has revealed that in both rural and urban areas, women are much less in employment than their male counterparts. They share only 20% of employment in the organised sector. Only the MGNREGA programme has witnessed a higher number of women sharing employment. In this, women share 57% of the total employment given under the programme.

In addition to the gender imbalance in employment, there are other imbalances which require urgent attention. A worker in southern and western states is advantageously placed than his counterpart in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in terms of access to a quality employment. The movement to find employment is gradually increasing causing large scale migration from one place to another, from rural to urban areas.

How are we doing currently on the employment front? The answer is hardly reassuring. The recent data on employment is disappointing. The slowdown in global economy has impacted most of the sectors of industries including IT, automobiles and garment. The agriculture sector is already in distress. Recent problems the banking sector is confronting may also affect the economy on a larger scale.

However, the urgency with which the declining prospect of ‘decent jobs’ should be dealt with seems to be lacking. The much hyped Skill India programme is only addressing employability, not unemployment. The basic question is how to create employment, not how to get it. The large section among the educated and technically trained youth is facing acute unemployment. Skill India may add few more. Will it help remove unemployment? 

The problem of an increasing trend of making formal jobs informal in the organised sector also needs an urgent remedy. In the organised sector, companies tend to hire workers on contracts and most of the time, they do not pay proper wages or provide social security cover. In countries like India where implementation of labour laws is poor, this trend makes labour scenario more grim. It is harmful to the economy as a whole, as reported by many surveys. 

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