Researchers and economists of Azim Premji University, based in Bangalore, has proposed an Urban Employment Guarantee programme that can create employment opportunities for up to 50 million workers in small towns across the country.
The State of Working India (SWI) 2019 report, which was released in the city on April 16, elaborates the proposal of extending national rural employment guarantee programmes to urban areas. “India has been a leader in the implementation of employment guarantee programmes via the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). It is time to think about extending this to urban areas also. Such an urban employment guarantee scheme will provide employment within town or city limits to all those who ask for it and thereby provide services to all residents, build our civic infrastructure, and restore the urban commons,” the proposal reads.
According to SWI 2019, a detailed programme that calls for providing 100 days of guaranteed work at Rs 500 a day for a variety of works would act as a solution to the employment crisis the country faces. The report adds that such a programme would also provide 150 contiguous days of training-and-apprenticeship at a stipend of Rs 13,000 per month for educated youth. It is estimated that such a programme will cost between 1.7 to 2.7% of GDP and will create work for 30-50 million people.
SWI 2019 report presents ongoing research and analysis of India’s employment situation. The report also proposes a Universal Basic Services programme that calls for increasing education spending to 6% of GDP and health spending to 3% of GDP, in order to create over 2 million good jobs while supplying high-quality public services.
Further, the report argues that employment generation and public service provision should not be compromised for meeting arbitrary fiscal deficit targets. It also calls for a concerted new industrial policy to revive Indian manufacturing.
Speaking on the occasion of the release, Amit Basole, Associate Professor at Azim Premji University, and lead author of the report said, “We are positive that our four policy proposals will spur job creation and improve the basic services in our country providing equitable job opportunities for all.”
Interestingly, researchers observed that as much as 5 million people left the workforce between 2016 and 2018. “The beginning of the decline in jobs coincided with demonetisation in November 2016, although no direct causal relationship can be established based only on these trends,” the report adds.
SWI also found that in addition to rising unemployment among the higher educated, the less educated workers have also seen job losses and reduced work opportunities since 2016.
Some details on the policy proposals are extracted from the report below. It also proposed that a bold public commitment to Universal Basic Services will have the dual effect of supplying quality services while creating good jobs. “A key condition for this is an investment in improved and increased public provision of healthcare, education, housing, security, transport, and utilities. This includes filling existing vacancies in the system, expansion of capacity, as well as regularising various forms of contract and ‘volunteer’ workers (such as ASHA and Anganwadi workers). We argue that a well-executed UBS would go a long way in restoring public goods to their rightful place in society, creating millions of good jobs in the process,” SWI 2019 report mentions.