Employment generation has been one of the key sticking points of the Modi government. It often invited sharp criticism from the Opposition. The Economic Survey 2022-23 claimed that the unemployment rate fell from 5.8 per cent in 2018-19 to 4.2 per cent in 2020-21.
The survey also noted the rise in rural female labour force participation from 19.7 per cent in 2018-19 to 27.7 per cent in 2020-21.
As the female labour force participation rate is still low, the Economic Survey highlighted issues in calculating it. “The common narrative of Indian women’s low LFPR misses the reality of working females integral to the economy of the household and the country. Measurement of employment through the survey design and content can make a significant difference to final LFPR estimates, and this matters more for measuring female LFPR than male LFPR.”
The survey advocated the need to broaden the horizon of measuring work, which constitutes the whole universe of productive activities alongside employment, especially for women. “According to the latest ILO standards, limiting productive work to labour force participation is narrow and only measures work as a market product. It does not include the value of women’s unpaid domestic work, which can be seen as expenditure-saving work such as collecting firewood, cooking, tutoring children, etc, and contributes significantly to the household’s standard of living,” the survey noted.
The Survey recommended that a wholesome measurement of “work” may require improved quantification through redesigned surveys. “There is significant scope to nullify the gender-based disadvantages to enable free choice of women to join the labour market. Ecosystem services, including affordable creches, career counselling/handholding, lodging and transportation, can further help unlock the gender dividend for inclusive and broad-based growth.”
The survey noted that while the pandemic impacted both labour markets, and employment ratios, now with sustained effort in the last few years, and the vaccination drive, the labour markets have recovered beyond pre-Covid levels, in both urban and rural areas, as observed in supply-side and demand-side employment data.
The survey referred to the 29 central labour laws which were amalgamated, and rationalised into four Labour Codes, in were in 2019 and 2020.
“Labour markets have recovered beyond pre-Covid levels, in both urban and rural areas, with unemployment rates falling from 5.8 per cent in 2018-19 to 4.2 per cent in 2020-21. As per usual status in Periodic Labour Force Survey(PLFS), the Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR), Worker Population Ratio (WPR) and unemployment rate (UR) in PLFS 2020-21(July-June) have improved for both males and females in both rural and urban areas compared to PLFS 2019-20 and 2018-19,” the survey said.
Referring to the Labour Force Participation Rate for males, the survey noted that it has gone up to 57.5per cent in 2020-21, as compared to 55.6per cent in 2018-19. Similarly, the Female Labour Force Participation Rate has gone up to 25.1per cent in 2020-21 from 18.6per cent in 2018-19. “There is a notable rise in Rural Female Labour Force Participation Rate from 19.7 per cent in 2018-19 to 27.7 per cent in 2020-21.”
In the case of formal employment, the survey said that employment generation coupled with improving employability is the priority of the government. “The net addition in EPF subscriptions during FY22 was 58.7 per cent higher than in FY21 and 55.7 per cent higher than that in the pre-pandemic year 2019. In FY23, net average monthly subscribers added under EPFO increased from 8.8 lakh in April-November 2021 to 13.2 lakh in April-November 2022.”
The swift rebound of formal sector payroll addition can be attributed to the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Rojgar Yojana (ABRY), launched in October 2020 to boost the economy, increase the employment generation in post Covid-19 recovery phase, and incentivise the creation of new employment along with social security benefits and restoration of employment lost during the pandemic, the economic survey added.