‘Seven million additional jobs per year is not a bad number at all’

The latest round of employment data released by the government on Thursday is encouraging,says India’s former chief statistician Pronab Sen

Written by The Indian Express | Published: June 22, 2013 2:59:32 am

The latest round of employment data released by the government on Thursday is encouraging,says India’s former chief statistician Pronab Sen,in conversation with The Indian Express. Excerpts:

Looking at the broad numbers are we sinking further into jobless growth?

I would not think so. Seven million additional jobs per year is not bad at all. Nevertheless,unemployment has increased by about half million per year,which means that about this number of new entrants to the labour force are not getting wok. However,the critical number to look at is the current daily status. Measured by that,the percentage of underemployment has come down (5.6 percent against 6.6 per cent in the 66th round). A measure of underemployment in India is the gap between the usual principal status and the current daily status. This used to be considerable,but as you can see the difference has come down significantly.

So,despite the rise in percentage of unemployed in the principal status or even including subsidiary status,this is an improvement…

Sure. The rise in unemployment by this measure is only part of the story. The current daily status is telling us that those who are employed are working longer,which too is a measure of new work being created. Moreover,as you can see,open unemployment is more pronounced in urban areas. In this case there is an element of aspiration— the difference between jobs available and job the persons want to do. This could account for the difference.

How about the anomalous situation where women are withdrawing from the work force in rural areas but rising fast in urban areas?

This one is difficult to explain. Broadly the employment numbers for rural areas are far more volatile. Now in 1999-2000 we had found for instance that rural women rear cattle big time. Since the questionnaire is often administered to the head of the household,there is a possibility he will include her work as domestic chore. The difference between work in urban areas as within the house or outside is more explicit and this problem is not visible there. It is possible the same problem may have reared up again.

How about youth employment? Are first timers finding jobs?

This is not readily visible from the data,but considering the addition to the labour force in two years of about 15 million,it does look there is some backlog there. We would need to look at what is happening to youth unemployment to get a better fix. There is also the issue of adequacy of their skill set,which too is not captured here.

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