The employment scheme worked as a lifeline for rural Indian households during the COVID-19 pandemic
(The story has been updated with the correct name of Dalberg Advisors in the third paragraph from top)
Lack of awareness and complexity of application process hold women back from applying for work under the central government’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), according to a recent report.
Women beneficiaries struggled to enrol in the scheme, the report suggested. Most of them found enrolling for work a complex and time-consuming process. Moreover, limited availability of work added to their woes.
The report titled The state of rural employment: A look at MGNREGS across 5 states in India was published by Dalberg Advisors — a social impact advisory group. The report is based on the data from — Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh.
Some 50 per cent of beneficiaries who got work under the scheme in 2022 are women, according to the Management Information System portal.
About 26 per cent of women who wanted MGNREGS work were unable to apply as they could not completely understand the application process, the findings noted. The numbers account for a staggering 4.2 million.
Lack of available work is another major barrier for people who seek works. Some 28 per cent or 1.5 million women tried to apply for work, but could not find any due to its unavailability.
Only 6 per cent of the total job seekers had job cards. Besides, women were also reported to have faced discrimination by the field staff while seeking works.
Our study underscores the need to increase the availability of work, especially for women who continue to be disproportionately left out and too often experience discrimination when they try to seek work, said Swetha Totapally, Partner, Dalberg Advisors.
The study found that MGNREGS worked as a lifeline for rural Indian households during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some 29 per cent of the adults in rural areas without job cards stated that they were in need of work.
About 70 per cent of the active job card holders received work at least once. While 18 per cent raised concerns about being unable to submit their application due to perceived discrimination.
Such studies are critical in surfacing evidence-based insights that can help stakeholders in policy-making and capacity building, said Shilpa Kumar, Partner at Omidyar Network India, a philanthropic investment firm.
This study highlights simple and practical modifications that can make the scheme more inclusive and accessible, Kumar added.
The average number of employment days per household was 66 days against the demand of 95 days.
Only 95 per cent of job card holders received wages. And only 37 per cent of them received wages on time.
The lack of work remains a key concern across all the states. There was high demand for work, but 41 per cent of the administrators stopped receiving applications as the allotted funds were exhausted.
Moreover, employment demand surveys were limited to only 79 per cent of Gram Panchayats and work planning was far less frequent in the remaining.
The findings also pointed out that 39 per cent of the local administrators could not resolve the beneficiaries’ concerns regarding payment, citing a lack of authority. About 28 per cent of them did not have any grievance redressal mechanism.
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