Grim news on jobs front for women

About nine million women went out of the job market in the rural areas between 2009-10 and 2011-12, a grim facet of the employment crisis in the countryside

By Latha Jishnu
Published: Friday 21 June 2013


The dismal trend in India’s jobless growth story was reinforced when the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) of the ministry of statistics and programme implementation released the highlights of its 68th round of its surveys, conducted from July 2011 to June 2012, on Thursday.

Jobs are scarce in India and women are faring worse than men, both in the urban and rural areas. While rural unemployment rose from 2.1 per cent in 2009-10 to 2.4 percent in 2011-12, if primary work alone was considered, in urban areas, it rose from 3.7 per cent to 3.8 per cent. But if other work was also taken into account, the rise in joblessness in the rural areas works was 1.7 per cent, against 1.6 per cent in 2009-10. In urban areas it remained stuck at 3.4 per cent.

For men, the overall unemployment rose from two per cent to 2.1 per cent, while for women, it climbed to 2.4 per cent.

Disguised unemployment

The clearest indication of the fragility of the jobs market in India was one statistic thrown up by the survey: around 51 per cent of workers are self-employed, mostly in rural areas. Of these 33.5 per cent are casual labour and just 15.6 per cent have salaried employment. Self-employment is the last resort for workers when there are not enough job opportunities and economists sometimes describe this term as disguised unemployment. At a press conference to announce the results of the survey, India's chief statistician T CA Anant disclosed that among workers in rural areas, 54.2 per cent were self-employed compared with 41.1 per cent in urban areas. Of these 38.6 per cent work as casual labour against 17.5 per cent in urban areas. The dark shadow of rural jobless was highlighted by another figure that Anant cited. Salaried employees or those with regular wages were much higher at 41.4 per cent in urban areas whereas it was a mere 3 per cent in rural areas.

Worrying numbers
Important employment and unemployment indicators (per 1000)

These indicators came from a sample of 101,724 households –59,700 in rural areas and 42,024 in urban areas –surveyed in 7,469 villages and 5,268 urban blocks spread across the country. NSSO pointed out that the only areas not covered were the interior villages of Nagaland situated beyond five kilometres of the bus route and those villages in Andaman and Nicobar Islands that remained inaccessible throughout the year.

Although these surveys are conducted every five years, the current survey was conducted midway to assess the impact of global recession and financial crisis of 2008-2010 on employment and incomes, and it follows the earlier such survey between 2009 and 2010.

Silver lining

But there was one sliver of hope. The 68th round indicated a three per cent employment growth from January 2010 to January 2012, with 13.9 million people joining the workforce across the country, resulting in 472.9 million (47.29 crore) people employed in 2011-12 as against 459 million (45.9 crore) in 2009-10.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Of the 472.9 million employed in 2011-12, 234.6 million were men and 101.8 million women in rural areas. In the urban areas there were 109.2 million men and 27.3 million women.
  • About 40 per cent of population constitutes labour force, with 41 per cent of them in rural areas and 37 per cent in urban areas.
  • The labour force participation rate was 56 per cent for men and 23 per cent for women.

What the last statistic means is that about nine million women went out of the job market in the rural areas between 2009-10 and 2011-12, a grim facet of the employment crisis in the countryside.

Missing jobs

The government’s Economic Survey 2012-13 pegs the labour force participation at 56 per cent rate, the same as in 2010. But, if more women enter the labour force, “the labour force participation rate could plausibly increase to 58 per cent by 2020”, it hopes. But even with this conservative assumption, “the number of missing jobs increases to 16.7 million, roughly six times that in the baseline scenario, and 3.7 per cent of overall employment in 2010”.

The number of missing jobs in 2020 under this higher projection of the employment scenario is estimated at 11.8 million or four times that in the baseline scenario. Not a happy prospect for the country.

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