Dip in exports points to more job losses

Indicating a fresh stress on jobs, a fine print of India’s latest export numbers suggests that major labour-intensive sectors of exports like gems and jewellery, leather, handloom and farm products have either plunged into negative territory or exhibited an extremely sluggish growth in November.

Worse, November export figures at $26.5 billion are the same as that of November 2014, implying exports have not progressed at all in these four years.

The latest data set released by the Ministry of Commerce painted a grim picture of India’s exports even as the government on Monday told Parliament that the country’s merchandise exports had risen close to 18% in October. In value terms, though, they were at $26.98 billion which was almost similar to the growth four years ago, when the NDA government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi took over.

On labour-intensive sectors, the gems and jewellery sector showed a decline of 7.94% followed by engineering goods at 7.34%, tea (-5.30%), coffee (-17.65%), rice (-14.85%), other cereals (-11.59%) fruits and vegetables (-16.83%) and meat, dairy and poultry products (-23.91). These are the sectors which employ the maximum number of people.

While the overall export growth has been impacted due to a global slowdown in demand, the labour-intensive sectors have witnessed a decline after the November 2016 demonetisation. The current data only proves that the headwinds due to note ban and GST are yet not over.

Former Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan, who is currently in India, said that even at 7% economic growth, the country was not producing enough jobs.

Rajan said he was pained to note that the Indian railways, earlier this year, received 23 million applications for only 90,000 jobs it had advertised for. He said India has more arable land compared to China and that the government should concentrate on well-targeted policies for farmers rather than subsidies and loan waivers.

Highlighting farm sector distress, another data produced in Parliament late last week showed agriculture exports had come down to $38.41 billion in 2017-18 from the $38.71 billion 2014-15, underlining the stress on this sector.

It is yet not clear how many workers have lost their jobs as there is no data in India to capture employment or lack of it in the informal sector.

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