Govt’s job numbers don’t reflect reality – Deccan Herald

It is a matter of concern in the country that the economy has not been able to create enough employment for those who want to work. The government recently announced a scheme to provide 10 lakh jobs in the next 18 months. Joblessness has also come into focus with the protests against the government’s Agniveer scheme. Against this background, some estimates of unemployment, especially those coming from the government, have become debatable. The annual Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) of the National Statistical Organisation (NSO), released last week, said the unemployment rate in 2020-21 slowed to 4.2% from 4.8% in 2019-20. It also showed that there was an increase in labour force participation. According to the report, the unemployment rate has consistently slowed down since the first annual PLFS was done in 2017-18 when the rate was 6.1%.
This goes against known facts and experience. The period when the PLFS says unemployment came down was the time when many people lost their jobs in the wake of the Covid pandemic and many migrants went back to their homes. During the period when, according to the report, the country’s unemployment rate was falling, the GDP growth was steadily falling from 6.8% to a negative 6.6%. This raises questions about the data. It should be noted that the CMIE’s April 2022 unemployment data is much higher at 7.4 %. The CMIE’s data for the 20-24 age group is as high as 42%.The PLFS report showed that the unemployment rate was higher for males than for females in rural areas. In rural areas, the unemployment rate was at 3.9% for males and 2.1% for females while in urban areas, the rate was higher for females at 8. 6% as against 6.1% for males.
Policies based on these figures would not be realistic because they may not have correctly captured the entire employment situation. It has been argued that some people may have joined the workforce because of the decline in household income. During the period under review, people employed in agriculture may have increased but those in the manufacturing sector declined. Even when participation increased, the quality of employment would only have come down. Millions of people have actually given up looking for jobs. Some 21 million women have left the workforce over the past five years. There are issues of definition and methodology in estimating the employment or unemployment rates and so it does not help to claim that unemployment has declined in the last few years. Such claims are directly against what people have experienced in their lives.
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