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Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Labour Bureau’s Survey

The 2007-08 unemployment rate that floats around is courtesy NSSO and has an unemployment rate of 2.8%. Labour Bureau’s definition is different,and shows an unemployment rate (2009-10) of 9.4%.

Written by Bibek Debroy | New Delhi | Published: November 11, 2010 1:58:18 pm

When the National Commission for Enterprises in Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) was set up,the data provided to be a hurdle. We don’t have satisfactory figures on where people are employed and what they do.

One is forced to resort to NSSO (National Sample Survey Organization). There are four problems with the NSSO. First,NSSO large-samples are at relatively infrequent time-intervals of five years. We are still fishing around with 2004-05. Second,and this is a related point,there are time-lags,fairly serious if policy interventions are contemplated.

Third,NSSO is a survey,not a census,and this can be an issue for interventions like BPL identification.

Fourth,NSSO surveys are for a specific purpose. They aren’t specific to labour,or even poverty.

While numbers can be tortured to extract confessions,it would be far better if the Labour Bureau and the Ministry of Labour were to undertake surveys on labour,provided they have the administrative capacity to deliver.

We now have a labour survey by the Labour Bureau. The sample size is nowhere near as large as NSSO. Notwithstanding this,what are the highlights? Pinning down unemployment is dicey,especially because it is often under-employment and subsistence-level employment.

There are also difficult questions about defining unemployment.

The 2007-08 unemployment rate that floats around is courtesy NSSO and has an unemployment rate of 2.8%. Labour Bureau’s definition is different,and shows an unemployment rate (2009-10) of 9.4%.

Second,a NSSO figure is cited that 55% of India’s labour force is employed in agriculture.

Most people who cite this number aren’t aware there is a problem with the question NSSO asks. 55% say their primary occupation is agriculture.

There is a secondary occupation too,and that is increasingly moving away from agriculture. The Labour Bureau finds 45.6% are employed in agriculture. 7.5% are employed in construction.

Construction has many characteristics associated with services. Service sector growth isn’t about BPOs,H1B visas and out-sourcing.

Bulk of employment growth,especially in backward parts of the country,has been in construction,trade,hotels and transport.

Therefore,let us recognise this and not blow up importance of agriculture. Third,the Labour Bureau finds something that is known and is reinforced by NSSO. Large chunks (85%) of the labour force have no access to social security. One should deduce the following.

Development requires rural to become urban,unorganised to become organised,farm to become non-farm. Within farm,we need to move away from food-grains,and even from crop output.

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