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Rising Unemployment:GOVT INTERVENTION VITAL, BY Dhurjati Mukherjee,4 May 2011 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 4 May 2011

Rising Unemployment


By Dhurjati Mukherjee


Prompted by country-wide concerns of growing unemployment and under-employment, the Government set up an expert committee to ascertain the accuracy of the Union Labour Ministry’s annual employment survey and suggest remedial measures.


Shockingly, the survey for April-March 2009-10 released in October last, revealed a much higher unemployment rate of 9.4 per cent spread over a 400 million work-force. This year plans are afoot to widen the survey base and cover all the 629 districts against only 300 last year and interview over one lakh respondents. 


Rising unemployment is all the more alarming against the backdrop that the growth rates are quite high. True, certain categories of employers are optimistic about their hiring plans and the organized sector is set to create around 1.6 million new jobs this year, the figures are far from adequate keeping in view the employment needs of the new entrants into the job market.


The advent of new technology and techniques of increasing productivity (both in the field and factory) have led to increased unemployment. Notwithstanding, that heath care (2.50 lakh jobs), hospitality, real estate, media and entertainment and IT are promising sectors of employment generation.


This has resulted in muted demands being voiced to accord Constitutional guarantee to the Right to Work. Presently, only socialist countries accord the Right of Employment to their citizens but there are no unemployment benefits as an alternative.


A document prepared by the Labour, in the 1980’s pointed out: “The overall approach to the concept of Right to Work has essentially to be that of creating conditions for the people to find productive work in the process of development …. . However, the inclusion of Right to Work as a Fundamental Right in the Constitution would make it incumbent to provide employment to the residuary categories of persons who will still be unemployed during the transition period”.   


Economists and planners feel that the primary reliance must be on the economic system to generate employment. As such, employment generation has to be consciously built into the development strategy of any country. In India, for example, of the over 400 million working force, around 220-230 million continue to depend on agriculture for their living. Thus, the 9 per cent growth of the economy has of no significance to the farm workers.


Leading to surmise that India’s employment strategy needs to be based on revitalizing all segments of the rural sector which have been neglected over many years.  Though, the emphasis on infrastructure development vis-à-vis building roads, bridges etc and extending power and telecom facilities impacted in generating employment, including self-employment, in the last few years but this is inadequate.


Consequently, it is now necessary that the improved infrastructure should be utilized to motivate people to set up tiny and cottage industries along-with agro-based industries which have great potential through skill training and financial assistance.


Besides, the country needs to explore the employment potential in the food processing and horticulture industry which is witnessing a revolution. Undoubtedly, if this development of agro-based industries is given special attention, it could change the face of Indian villages and generate employment opportunities. Towards that end, an integrated food law could be brought to replace the current multiple laws and regulations, which have affected normal growth and standards of the food processing industry.


In addition, horticulture, floriculture and food processing could add value to products and ensure better returns for the farming community. These unexplored areas with active support from research institutes could also help in generating adequate employment opportunities and assist the revival process of the rural economy. Moreover, through a proper plan, the country could also gain valuable foreign exchange through exports.


Apart from these, there needs to be proper development of cottage and village industries. The Government has to come forward and encourage artisans to ensure that they get market value for their products. By identifying around 200 growth centers throughout the country and providing proper infrastructural facilities, roads, power and telecommunication, would ensure accessibility to markets and help sell produce at competitive rates. This could be completed in a time-bound frame of 5 to 10 years, by the Twelfth Plan.


The National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector (NCEUS) aptly suggested the need to promote small, micro and tiny enterprises with credit, marketing and technology support. Clusters of tiny industries deserve SEZ treatment more than the rich exporting units. Priorities in credit facilities should go to small farmers and micro enterprises.


Importantly, the entire planning process must now centre on helping the poor and the vulnerable sections. The Government’s decision to provide 100 days guaranteed employment in a year under the NREGS to one member of every poor household at a minimum wage for public works projects should be seriously implemented. As it has helped in serving the dual purpose of generating employment and in building rural infrastructure.


However, the performance review committee of the NREGS found that the national average for April-October 2010 was poor and stood at 34 days. Only Andhra Pradesh had done well by generating 46 days of work per household. It was followed by Tripura (40) and Orissa and Rajasthan (39) each.


Clearly, our leaders need to heed the concerned voices of economists and planners including former President Abdul Kalam who have repeatedly asserted the need to reverse the planning strategy and concentrate on the rural sector. As this would go a long way in tackling the problem of unemployment and under-employment as also boost the living standards of the poor and the economically weaker sections. Thereby, usher in the much-talked about inclusive growth. ----- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)


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