The government is obsessed with economic growth. Employment is bound to follow, it claims. That's a delusion. The swelling numbers of unemployed continue to clamour for
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In a country as diverse, disparate and disorganised as India, it would be impossible to accurately measure the exact number of the unemployed. For instance, it is clear that people 'find' employment for some periods of the year and it is also clear not all people are employed for all days in the year. So, the measure of unemployment has to gauge who will be regarded as employed in terms of the days they worked during a year and the intensity in terms of the hours they worked. Then, there is the issue of 'quality' of employment: so even if people are employed, is the work they do adequate to meet their basic needs?
The census, for instance, only classifies people as employed or unemployed. But the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) collects and analyses information based on different criteria to determine the rate of unemployment (see box: Who is an unemployed?) and is considered to be the best assessment. The state employment exchanges -- roughly 958 across the country -- are the third, but inadequate source of employment data as few people actually register here for jobs.
The problem is that modern industry creates a chimera of jobs. For all the fuss made of the economic might of industry, it provides a mere 8.35 per cent of the total employment. Worse still, the glamorous and much touted private sector provides only 2.58 per cent and the much-abused public sector 5.77 per cent of this formal employment. Mining, water and electricity and in community and social services are the largest employers in the public sector. Unfortunately, with the decline of public services and demands for downsizing, this sector is showing a negative growth overall. On the other hand, with capital intensity growing in the private sector, its rate of growth has been near zero as far as jobs are concerned.
This when the maximum increase in employment growth rate over the 1990s decade was in the sectors of construction (7 per cent), financial services and transport and communication (roughly 6 per cent each). But it is the unorganised sector, which provides the job benefits. For instance, the small and medium manufacturing enterprises contribute nearly 80 per cent of the manufacturing sector employment and its employment elasticity is almost 3 times more than the organised sector.
But all this so-called growth in the construction-trade-transport and services sector is negated because agriculture, the major employment generator, has stopped absorbing people. The annual growth rate in this sector declined from 1.51 per cent in the 1983-94 period to -0.34 per cent in 1994-2000.
Another indicator of worsening employment scenario inrural areas is the declining share of self-employment in total rural employment from 58.9 per cent in 1977-78 to 52.9 per cent in 1999-2000. This indicates the proportion of farmers who cultivated their land has decreased because of declining yields or fragmentation of holdings. Similarly, there is a sharp increase in the share of casual employment over time -- reflecting the displacement of marginal cultivators and their conversion into agricultural labour. As a result, casual labour increased from 29.7 per cent of rural employment in 1977-78 to 37.3 per cent in 1999-2000.
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