Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Out-of-workforce Netadom’s shirk-force

Updated: December 4, 2010 2:52 pm

The crown of UPA government is studded with ‘several shinning gems’, i.e. corruption, scams, terrorism, submissive foreign policy, chaos, confusion, compromise, inconsistency, incoherence, etc, to name a few. As if these were not enough, the government has added another feather to its cap—increasing rate of unemployment, which is 9.4 per cent. Earlier, the National Sample Survey Organisation of India had painted a ‘rosy’ unemployment figure of 2.8 per cent in India by using its Consumer Expenditure Survey for 2007-2008. However, the true picture came into light when the Labour Bureau under the Union Ministry of Labour conducted first-ever annual employment survey in 2009-10, interestingly the figure stands at 9.4 per cent now. Here it is worth mentioning that in that year, India’s gross domestic product grew by 7.4 per cent. This could be called a healthy GDP growth rate, given the global recession. But in the backdrop of the alarmingly increasing unemployment rate, this GDP rate may prove to be malignant for the economy in general and aam aadmi in particular. The same aam aadmi, the UPA government champions the cause for uplift. But what is more disturbing is the statement of Finance Minister. The other day he announced that the country could soon return to high-growth path to clock 9 per cent growth rate, which is good. But this glowing growth rate might push under the carpet the issue of rising unemployment. In fact, the impact of unemployment on the economy is so widespread that its social and economic consequences need to be reckoned with in any planning effort for the economy as a whole.

It is to be noted that National Sample Survey Organisation surveys are conducted with a gap of five years, so there is a dire need to have unemployment numbers in between. The Labour Bureau has started these employment-unemployment surveys, which is a great step and I hope we will have more frequent numbers on a measure as important as employment. The survey was conducted in 28 States/UTs spread across the country in which about 99 per cent of the country’s population resides. The report itself is quite detailed, and contains a whole section on shortcomings of their survey methodology, and that tells you that the quality of the data is only going to improve. The magnitude of total unemployment is staggering in India and is perhaps larger than in any other country of the world. The estimated 40 million chronically unemployed is really a big number. The overall unemployment rate is 9.4 per cent, and it is split out as 10.1 per cent in rural areas, and 7.3 per cent in urban areas. Now, a key thing to remember about unemployment rate is that it is calculated as a percentage of labour force, and not the total population. So, this means that 9.4 per cent of that part of population, which is interested in working, is unemployed, and not 9.4 per cent of the entire population is unemployed.

Unemployment and under-employment are a proximate reflection of two sets of deeper causes, namely, the inadequacy of total absence of an asset lease (property or skill) and the exploitative institutional arrangements. What is, therefore, called for in solving the problem of under employment is the ensuring of the long-term economic viability of persons affected. However, the UPA government launched a mega employment guarantee scheme, namely, “National Rural Employment Guarantee Act” (NREGA) in 2005 for the rural poor. How long this act has been able to implement the rural works, social justice and equity demand for taking care of the unemployed and under-employed from the poor families, the moribund village-economy will explain the facts. The deep-rooted corruption foiled the very aims of NREGA, when job-cards meant for rural poor are misused by the corrupt officials and some political leaders of ruling party in village areas.

I would underline that if only our planners and policymakers had put fewer fetters on the real employment generation of the producers and relied less on laws and regulations, there would have been a rapid decline in the number of unemployed. America also has a stagnant 9.6 per cent jobless rate. But surely you must have realised one big difference between the two democracies. US leaders pay electorally for failing to create jobs—recession or no recession. In India, all pay and no work don’t make politician a bekaar neta. Our PM says, “We’re not in the business of stealing jobs.” Add to this: we’re not in the business of generating jobs either. We’re in the business of sloganeering: Down with this, down with that, such as imperialism, poverty, corruption—or unemployment! The problem of growing unemployment has been snowballing for the last two decades and has now attained such menacing proportions that it has become the primary threat to the country’s stability and security. Economic growth which does not bridge the gap between the rich and the poor will only promote social inequalities and injustice, incompatible with the spirit of the times. The planners and policy-makers are fully aware that economic growth which does not guarantee employment opportunities to a growing population will be self-defeating, if not counter-productive. Therefore, there is an increasingly pervasive sense not only of failure, but of futility, as under the UPA regime, the legislative process has become a cruel shell game and the service system has become a bureaucratic maze, inefficient, incomprehensible, and inaccessible.

Deepak Kumar Rath

Deepak Kumar Rath

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