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Wages in Gujarat are one of the lowest in the country, say National Sample Survey data, released last week

By Rajiv Shah
The latest National Sample Survey (NSS) data have suggested that Gujarat's regular wage earners, salaried classes and the casual workers are being paid one of the lowest wages as compared to most Indian states. While Gujarat may claim to have the highest pace of urbanisation in India, shockingly, as against the all-India average per day earning of urban regular wage earners and salaried persons of Rs 450 per day, in Gujarat it is a poor Rs 320. This, if the NSS, which carried out its survey in 2011 and 2012, is to be believed, is the lowest compared to anywhere else in the country.
In fact, even the so-called backward states offer better wages to its salaries employees and regular workers. In Bihar, it is Rs 412, in Chhattisgarh Rs 323, in Assam Rs 607, in Madhya Pradesh Rs 436, in Odisha 432, in Rajasthan Rs 417, and in Uttar Pradesh Rs 483. Regular wages and salaries in “comparable states”, which compete with Gujarat for achieving developmental goals, are -- Maharashtra Rs 486, Andhra Pradesh Rs 395, Karnataka Rs 487, Haryana Rs 777, Punjab Rs 362, and Tamil Nadu Rs 390.
The NSS has situation was found to be equally bad in with regard to casual labour in urban areas. Casual wages, on an average, are Rs 145 per day in Gujarat, which, again, is worse than 20 major states, except for four -- Chhattisgarh, where it was Rs 106, Madhya Pradesh Rs 126, Uttar Pradesh Rs 143 and West Bengal Rs 128. In casual labour in urban areas, Kerala tops the list with Rs 310 per day on an average, with the all-India average being Rs 170. Significantly, most of the urban wage earners work in industry, and the Gujarat government is in forefront in advocating the anti-labour exit policy.
Coming to casual workers in the rural areas, Gujarat was found to be equally bad. In rural areas, casualisation has taken place on a massive scale and small and marginal farmers are increasingly turning into wage labourers. The NSS survey has found that the casual workers’ wages in rural Gujarat – on an average – are Rs 113, as against the all-India average of Rs 139. Here, Gujarat is worse than all 20 major states except two -- Chhattisgarh (Rs 84) and Madhya Pradesh (Rs 105). The earning of casual workers in rural areas was, again, found to be the highest in Kerala, Rs 315, which is almost three times that of Gujarat.
Things are slightly better with regular wage earners and salaried classes of the rural areas, who in any case form a small section. Here, on an average, per person per day earning is Rs 254 per day, as against the all-India average of Rs 298.96. Several “backward” were found to be performing better in their respective rural areas -- Bihar (Rs 411.82), Assam (Rs 302.22), Rajasthan (Rs 305.59), Uttar Pradesh (Rs 276.13), Jharkhand (Rs 478.61). The survey shows that regular wages and salaries in rural areas were higher in as many as 14 out of 20 major states compared to Gujarat.
Urban Gujarat's poverty should be a matter of concern. According to the 2011 Census, 42.6 per cent of Gujarat's population lives in urban areas, as against 37 per cent in 2001, making the state one of the fastest growing urbanized states in the country, fast catching up with Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Yet, the fact is, urban poverty has failed to come down in any drastic way. In fact, the percentage of urban poverty in Gujarat during the second half of the decade ending 2010 was a mere 2.2 per cent, from 20.1 per cent to 17.9 per cent, which just about 0.44 per cent per annum.
Notably, this was lower than a dozen out of 20 major states, including Madhya Pradesh, which saw a whopping 12.2 per cent reduction in urban poverty, followed by Orissa (11.7), Rajasthan (9.8), Maharashtra (7.3), Tamil Nadu (6.9), Karnataka (6.3), Kerala (6.3), Andhra Pradesh (5.7), Chhattisgarh (4.6), Bihar (4.3), Uttar Pradesh (2.4) and West Bengal (2.4). The all-India average percentage of urban poverty reduction is 4.6.
Poor wages in Gujarat become worse for the female workers of every category. The average male casual workers’ wage in the urban areas, according to the survey, was Rs 161, as against the female wage of Rs 89. As for regular wage earners and salaried employees in the urban areas, the average per day earning in Gujarat was found to be Rs 326 for males and Rs 272 for females. Of course, this is not at all Gujarat specific, yet the fact is, Gujarat’s females are one of the worst earners of wages compared to most Indian states.

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