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Gujarat has higher than national average underemployment rates: NSSO

By Rajiv Shah 
Gujarat government may be happy that Government of India reports have been saying that Gujarat has fewer unemployed than other states. However, latest reports, including the Academic Foundation’s “India Labour and Employment Report 2014” and the National Sample Survey Organisation’s “Employment and Unemployment Situation in India, 2011-12” report point towards the need to look at the problem of underemployment, which is higher in Gujarat than several Indian states.
The Gujarat government has for long been claiming that its unemployment rate is one of the lowest. Quoting the Labour Bureau data, released by the Government of India, it said recently (click HERE to read) that Gujarat’s unemployment rate in the year 2011-12 “has the least unemployment rate among all states across the country”. Celebrating it as Gujarat government success, it officially declared, “According to the report, while India’s jobless rate stood at 3.8 per cent during the last fiscal, Gujarat showed lowest rate of 1 per cent. The report also noted that Gujarat has an extremely low unemployment rate among females in urban areas.”
The state government observation did not end here. It said, “The Labour Bureau conducted this survey, and the first such survey was conducted in 2009-2010. The Bureau is an apex organization for providing database at the national level for research and policy formation. This report is yet another indication of Gujarat’s vibrant strides in every sphere including providing a steady stream of jobs for its people, especially the youngsters.” This has happened allegedly because of its “staunch” advocacy in “strengthening the people of the state with appropriate skill sets that would enable them to maximize their potential in the job market.”
The latest “India Labour and Employment Report 2014”, prepared by the high-profile Academic Foundation, New Delhi, with the help of Institute for Human Development scholars, has sought to indirectly contradict such an approach, taken by the Gujarat government in showcasing how unemployment rate in Gujarat is low. It says, “As is typical for a poor and developing economy, most workers in India cannot afford to be unemployed, hence the level of open unemployment is quite low at 2.7 per cent.” It adds, “Even the more comprehensive current daily status (CDS) measure of unemployment reaches only 5.6 per cent.”
Seeking to pinpoint the problem, the report states, “In reality, the problem is not primarily one of unemployment but lack of productive employment”, suggesting the need to find out how many workers are underemployed, instead of suggesting an unemployment rate. Taking a cue from the need to take a look at underemployment afresh, for the first time, the National Sample Survey Organization’s report, “Employment and Unemployment Situation in India, 2011-12”, released in January 2014, seeks to suggest how many people in different states were actually suffered from a much higher underemployed than unemployment.
Putting out data on the number of persons who did not work “more or less regularly throughout the year” the report finds that in Gujarat, this predicament befell 11.6 per cent workers in the age group 15 years and above in the rural areas, and 5.8 per cent workers in the same age group in the urban areas. This, the report states, is higher than the national average – which is 10.6 per cent in the rural areas and 5.7 per cent in the urban areas. A comparison with other Indian states suggests that there is lower underemployment than Gujarat’s in rural areas of 12 major Indian states out of 20, and seven states in the urban areas.
Thus, as against 11.6 per cent underemployment in Gujarat’s rural areas, major states with lower underemployment ratio were Andhra Pradesh (8.8 per cent), Assam (8.5 per cent), Bihar (10 per cent), Haryana (9 per cent), Himachal Pradesh (5.6 per cent), Jammu & Kashmir (7 per cent), Karnataka (4.8 per cent), Maharashtra (10.3 per cent), Odisha (9.8 per cent), Punjab (5.8 per cent), Uttarakhand (9.7 per cent), and Uttar Pradesh (8.5 per cent). In the urban areas, too, the states with a higher underemployment rate than Gujarat (5.8 per cent) were Andhra Pradesh (3 per cent), Assam (5.3 per cent), Haryana (2.9 per cent), Himachal Pradesh (4.4 per cent), Jammu & Kashmir (5.5 per cent), Punjab (3.2 per cent), and West Bengal (5.2 per cent).
The fact that underemployment needs to be taken into account in calculations while analyzing joblessness was highlighted in the “State of the Urban Youth-India 2013 Report” released by the UN Habitat and IRIS Knowledge Foundation in Mumbai in October 2013. The UN report said, “The availability of employment and access to services is not commensurate to the number of people demanding them. Young people are advised to pursue education towards white-collar jobs, but a large portion of real job creation is in the informal sector. The youth are neither prepared for it, nor consider it aspirational.” The report recommends skill development as a reasonable alternative.

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