Get the job done: Why GoI should roll out a national urban employment guarantee scheme – Times of India

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Rajasthan recently launched its Urban Employment Scheme to provide 100 days of employment, as the national rural jobs scheme does. That an urban jobs programme is needed, especially after the pandemic’s massive impact on informal sectors, has been argued by many, including the PM’s Economic Advisory Council. And another level of urgency comes from NCRB data that 26% or 42,004 of 1.6 lakh suicide cases in 2021 were by daily wagers. Inflation, particularly in food and fuel, added to the problems created by a terrible couple of years for low-skilled workers. CMIE data shows that urban unemployment went from 7.32% in June to 9.57% in August – substantially higher than rural unemployment for August at 7.68%.
Therefore, and to reiterate PMEAC, this is the right time to seriously consider a national urban employment guarantee scheme. Plus, such a scheme, if designed well and if it subsumes a few other social welfare programmes, won’t really strain government budgets. Rajasthan’s scheme – which provides unskilled labour Rs 259 per day and skilled workers Rs 283 per day – will cost around Rs 800 crore annually compared to the 2021-22 state budget of Rs 2.5 lakh crore. At the national level, estimates by researchers at Azim Premji University for providing 100 days of work for 20 million workers at Rs 300 per day project a cost of just Rs 1 lakh crore to GoI.
An urban jobs guarantee scheme can be a critical, even if temporary, intervention in the jobs crisis at the lower end of the labour market. That urban infrastructure upgrade as well as greenfield projects are a big spending category means there won’t be any shortage of productive work for the job guarantee scheme. GoI should soon come up with its version.
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This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
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