Skip to main content

PLFS data: Is rising employment good news? Deeper analysis suggests contrary results

By Ishwar Chandra Awasthi, Puneet Kumar Shrivastav* 

Results of the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), 2020-21, released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India (GoI) on June 14, 2022, show improvement in work force participation rate (WPR) and labour force participation rate (LFPR) and declining unemployment rate. Four rounds of data have been released from 2017-18 to 2020-21 based on PLFS.
The general trend in the last four rounds clearly shows consistent increase in WPR and LFPR and falling unemployment rates by usual status (PS+SS). Though increase in WPR and LFPR is reported highest in 2019-20 over 2018-19, yet rising trend in these two key indicators continues throughout, and similarly fall in unemployment is registered highest in 2019-20 over 2018-19.
Clearly, the recent results give some solace and relief after unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic that has entailed enormous loss of human lives and livelihoods and crippled economic activities (Figure-1). However, some deeper analysis provides contrary results and clearly shows that all is not good as portrayed by these results. Some cursory analysis helps to demolish the encouraging news.
The sectoral movements of workforce indicate that primary sector employment, mainly the agriculture, shows rise of workforce during the period barring a bit slow down in 2018-19. The retrogression of workforce to agriculture somehow is not positive sign of wellbeing of workforce.
Understandably, those working in non-agriculture sector have returned to agriculture under duress conditions where real wages are lower compared to non-agriculture sector. This is certainly an employment of last resort. Employment in secondary sector stagnated and tertiary sector employment contracted in 2019-20 and 2020-21 (Figure-2). These sectors are considered better paid compared to agriculture sector.
Employment is generally disaggregated into self-employment, regular employment and casual employment. Regular paid employment is generally considered secure and better which is also a proxy of decent employment. Self-employment is considered fairly secure, though incomes from certain activities might be highly irregular, inadequate and even uncertain. However, for typical casual workers, neither duration of employment nor income is certain.
In agriculture sector, self-employment shows a modest uptrend, the regular salaried/wage employment has almost stagnated and casual employment has also declined during the period (2017-17 to 2020-21). Thus, most of the employment has occurred in self-employment in agriculture.
In the secondary sector, self-employment has generally stagnated barring in 2020-21 that saw some improvements. Regular salaried/ wage employment also stagnated and declined albeit sharply in 2020-21 compared to earlier years. Casual employment also declined or stagnated with some marginal spurt in 2020-21. In services sector, self-employment stagnated from 2017-18 to 2019-20 and later some increases were noticed in 2020-21. The regular salaried/ wage employment also stagnated and declined in 2020-21. The casual employment shows a steady decline over the years.
The rise in employment has been observed in those segments which are informal and unorganized receiving no social security and without the preview of labour laws. Undeniably, nature of employment occurred as a form of last resort or distress form of employment where people cannot afford to remain unemployed for any length of time and often forced to resort whatever employment is available (Table -1).
The newly sought information in PLFS 2020-21 reveals that 12.6 percent of the self-employed engaged in primary sector are the user or consumer of their own produced products via economic activities in which they are engaged in. Whatever they are producing is being consumed by them only.
So, the question here arises whether such economic activities should be considered as employment in real sense or it’s just a strategy for survival of livelihood. Further, one third (32%) of the self-employed individuals under primary sector do sell less than 50 percent share of their produce and rest is being used for their own consumption. Only 12.5 percent self-employed do use their entire produce for market (Figure-3).
Indeed, a country like India, where more than half of the workforce is engaged in self-employment activities, which is being promoted with sincere policy efforts by government, is still long way to go. Given evidences compel us to wonder whether all that glittering is really a gold.
---
*Dr Awasthi is Professor at Institute for Human Development, New Delhi; Dr Shrivastav is Assistant Director, National Institute of Labour Economics Research & Development (Under NITI Aayog, GoI), New Delhi. Views are personal

Comments

TRENDING

AMR: A gathering storm that threatens a century of progress in medicine

By Bobby Ramakant*  A strategic roundtable on “Charting a new path forward for global action against Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)” was organised at the 77th World Health Assembly or WHA (WHA is the apex decision-making body of the World Health Organization – WHO, which is attended by all countries that are part of the WHO – a United Nations health agency). AMR is among the top-10 global health threats “Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a growing and urgent crisis which is already a leading cause of untimely deaths globally. More than 2 people die of AMR every single minute,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO. “AMR threatens to unwind centuries of progress in human health, animal health, and other sectors.”

New Odia CM's tribal heritage 'sets him apart' from Hindutva Brahminical norms

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  Mohan Charan Majhi took the oath as the new Chief Minister of Odisha following the electoral defeat of the BJD led by Naveen Patnaik, who served as Chief Minister for twenty-four years. The new Chief Minister is the son of a security guard and a four-time MLA who hails from the remote village of Raikala in the Keonjhar district. He belongs to the Santali tribe and comes from a working-class family. Such achievements and political mobilities are possible only in a democratic society. Majhi’s leadership even in the form of symbolic representation in a democracy deserves celebration.

What stops Kavach? Why no time to focus on common trains meant for common people?

By Atanu Roy  A goods train rammed into Kanchenjunga Express on 17th June morning in North Bengal. This could have been averted if the time tested anti-collision system (Kavach) was in place. 

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Saving farmers and consumers from GM crops and food: Philippines court shows the way

By Bharat Dogra*  At a time when there is increasing concern that powerful GM crop lobbyists backed by enormous resources of giant multinational companies may be able to bulldoze food safety and environmental concerns while pushing GM crops, a new hope has appeared in the form of a court decision from the Philippines. 

Top Punjab Maoist who failed to analyse caste question, promoted economism

By Harsh Thakor*  On June 15th we commemorated the 15th death anniversary of Harbhajan Singh Sohi or HBS, a well known Communist leader in Punjab. He expired of a heart attack in Bathinda in 2009.