[4 April 2024] The Hindu Op-ed: Turning the spotlight on the urban poor

PYQ Relevance:

Q. Most of the unemployment in India is structural in nature. Examine the methodology adopted to compute unemployment in the country and suggest improvements. (UPSC CSE 2023)


Q. Disguised unemployment generally means (UPSC CSE 2013)

(a) large number of people remain unemployed
(b) alternative employment is not available
(c) marginal productivity of labour is zero
(d) productivity of workers is low


Mains: Social Issues; Population; Unemployment;

Mentor comments: Unemployment/Underemployment is the most contentious issue that continues to be a challenge for the Socioeconomic landscape of India. As one of the world’s most populous nations with a diverse workforce, fluctuations in the unemployment rate have far-reaching implications for the country’s growth and development. So, we need to analyze the current status of India’s Dynamic Population. The recently published, India Employment Report 2024 is the third in a series of regular publications by the ILO on labor and employment issues. This report on Youth Employment, Education, and Skills examines the challenge of youth employment in the context of the emerging economic, labor market, educational, and skills scenario in India and changes over the past two decades.

Let’s learn. 

Why in the News?

The recent India Employment Report (IER) 2024 Report by the Institute for Human Development and International Labour Organization (ILO) poses questions on the trickle-down effect of employment.

Key highlights of the IER 2024 Report:

  • Poor Employment Conditions:
    • The overall labor force participation and employment rates are reflecting issues such as stagnant or declining wages, increased self-employment among women, and a higher proportion of unpaid family work among youth.
    • The share of the young population with secondary or higher education in the total unemployed has almost doubled from 35.2% in 2000 to 65.7% in 2022.
  • Youth Employment Challenges:
    • Youth employment and underemployment surged between 2000 and 2019, with educated youths experiencing significantly higher levels of joblessness.
    • The Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR), Worker Population Ratio (WPR), and the Unemployment Rate (UR) showed a long-term deterioration between 2000 and 2018 but witnessed an improvement after 2019.
  • Widening Regional Gaps: Significant states consistently rank lower in employment indicators. For example, states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh have struggled with poor employment outcomes over the years, reflecting the influence of regional policies.
Case Study from Kolkata:

A study conducted in 37 slums across Kolkata in 2012 and revisited in 2022-23 found that the major occupations in slums have remained the same over the decade, with a significant proportion of the working population engaged in unskilled labor. The share of employment in skilled and semi-skilled labor and private organizations decreased between 2012-19, while employment in petty businesses or small shops increased by 9%. The study also found that employment in truck driving and cleaning, and construction and related work gained momentum in the last 10 years.
  • Widening Gender Gaps:
    • India is facing low rates of female labor force participation.
    • Although educational attainment has improved across all groups, social inequalities persist despite affirmative action and targeted policies, with Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes facing barriers to accessing better job opportunities.
  • Informal Employment challenges: Although non-farm employment growing faster than farm employment before 2018, it has not grown sufficiently to absorb workers from agriculture. Around 90% are engaged in informal work, especially after 2018 it is increased.
  • Lack of necessary skills: 75% of workers are unable to send emails with attachments, 60% are unable to copy and paste files, and 90% are unable to perform basic spreadsheet tasks like putting a mathematical formula.
  • Declining Wages of Casual Workers:
    • While wages of skilled laborers maintained a modest upward trend during 2012–22, wages have remained low for unskilled workers. 
    • As much as 62% of the unskilled casual agricultural workers and 70% of such workers in the construction sector at the all-India level did not receive the prescribed daily minimum wages in 2022.
  • No Security to Industrial Workers: Recently, online platforms and gig workers have been expanding, but it is, to a large extent, the extension of informal work, with hardly any social security provisions.
  • Trends in Regional Migration:
    • India is expected to have a migration rate of around 40% in 2030 and will have an urban population of around 607 million.
    • The present pattern of migration also shows regional imbalance in the labor markets.
    • Usually, migration in India is seen from the eastern, north-eastern, and central regions to southern, western, and northern regions.

What are the suggestive measures given by ILO?

  • To address labour market disparities:
    • Enhance women’s participation.
    • Integrate high-quality skills training to uplift economically disadvantaged groups.
    • Promote a fair labour market.
  • To enhance our focus on enhancing Employment:
    • Working on macroeconomic policies especially manufacturing sector.
    • Supporting MSMEs through a decentralized approach.
    • Increase agricultural productivity.
    • Building a sustainable economy.
  • To enhance job quality and build strategies:
    • Building robust labor Policy.
    • Promote Digital economy.
    • Focusing on sustained urban culture and migration policy.



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