Infirmities in jobs data survey

Infirmities in jobs data survey

Survey, choice of base year give partial, distorted picture

The survey covers only the formal or organised sector and establishments with more than 10 employees. Credit: iStock Images

The Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) which was released by the Labour Bureau last week is an attempt to provide employment data which is necessary for studies of the economy and for policy formulation. India has often lacked good economic data, especially employment data, which track trends regularly and give reliable inputs, unlike in other major economies which make periodic surveys. The QES has sought to provide employment data for the April-June quarter of FY22 and has covered nine major sectors of the urban economy, including manufacturing, construction, trade, transport, education, health, hospitality, IT and financial services. The survey was conducted during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, much of it by telephone. This perhaps posed some difficulty in capturing the full range of data efficiently. But it has made a good start.  

The conclusions of the survey, and some of its methodologies and assumptions, however, suffer from some infirmities. It has recorded that the number of fresh jobs created during the quarter was 30 million, as against 23.7 million reported in the sixth economic census of 2013-14, registering a 29% job growth. The database for the survey should have been chosen from a year closer to the present, not from so far back as 2013-14. Many units which existed in 2013-14 do not exist now. That distorts the data, and the fact that the survey does not capture the data from units that came up after 2013-14 adds to the distortion. The nation has experienced widespread job destruction and not job creation in the recent past. The promise of generation of two crore jobs every year has not come true. That is why the figures presented in the survey do not inspire confidence.  

Another limitation of the survey is that it covers only the formal or organised sector and establishments with more than 10 employees. The job situation in the informal sector, which is much bigger than the organised sector, is different, and certainly worse. The survey also found that most of those who were employed in the organised sector got full or partial wages during the lockdowns. Job and wage losses affected mostly those who were employed in the smaller units in the informal sector. The survey showed that a good number of units in the formal sector provided skill development programmes to their workers. While this is welcome, a matter of serious concern is the steady fall of the share of women in the organised sector workforce from 31% in 2013-14 to 29% in April-June this year. While the survey is useful for both government and the private sector, its deficiencies need to be removed, it should be made reliable and interpreted correctly.  

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