Employment days under MGNREGS at a 5-year low


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: MGNREGS

Mains level: Right to work


The average days of employment provided per household under the Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) are at a five-year low, this financial year.

What is the news?

  • As on January 20, the average days of employment provided per household is 42 days while it was 50 days in 2021-22, 52 days in 2020-21, 48 days in 2019-20 and 51 days in 2018-19.

Why such unprecedented drop in employments?

The program has been plagued by systemic problems that is disincentivising participation.

  • Choking of funds: This has led to suppression of work demand and delays in wage payments.
  • App for attendance: The introduction of unnecessary technical complexities like an app for attendance at worksites has caused more hardships for workers who will be more dissuaded going forward.
  • States dismal policies: With less than two-months for the financial year to close, there are at least nine States and union territories which have utilised less than 70% of projected person days.
  • Budgetary cuts: With low utilisation, financial outlay for the underperforming States is expected to further shrink in the upcoming financial year.

What is MGNREGS?

  • The MGNREGS is a scheme under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act of 2005.
  • This is labour law and social security measure that aims to guarantee the Right to Work’.
  • The act was first proposed in 1991 by V. Narasimha Rao.

What is so unique about it?

  • MGNREGS is unique in not only ensuring at least 100 days of employment to the willing unskilled workers, but also in ensuring an enforceable commitment on the implementing machinery i.e., the State Governments, and providing a bargaining power to the labourers.
  • The failure of provision for employment within 15 days of the receipt of job application from a prospective household will result in the payment of unemployment allowance to the job seekers.
  • Any Indian citizen above the age of 18 years who resides in rural India can apply for the NREGA scheme. The applicant should have volunteered to do unskilled work.
  • Employment is to be provided within 5 km of an applicant’s residence, and minimum wages are to be paid.
  • Thus, employment under MGNREGS is a legal entitlement.

Why is MGNREGS under fire these days?

  • Not enough work: Bihar despite its levels of poverty, does not generate enough work to make a concrete difference, and on the other end of spectrum we have Kerala which is economically better but has been utilising it for asset creation.
  • No asset creation: There is a lack of tangible asset creation. The committee will study if the composition of work taken up presently under the scheme should be changed.

Issues in implementation

  • Insufficient budgetary allocations: Increase in the nominal budget but actual budget (after adjusting inflation) decreased over the years.
  • Approved Labour Budget Constraints: The Centre through the arbitrary “Approved Labour Budget” has reduced the number of days of work and put a cap on funds through the National Electronic Fund Management System
  • Not so attractive wages rate: Currently, MGNREGS wage rates of 17 states are less than the corresponding state minimum wages.
  • Delay in wage payments: Under the MGNREGS, a worker is entitled to get his or her due wages within a fortnight of completion of work, failing which the worker is entitled to the compensation.
  • No-work situations are rising: None of the states was able to provide full 100 days employment as mentioned in the scheme.
  • Data manipulations by authorities: A recent study has found that data manipulation in the MGNREGS is leading to gross violations in its implementation.
  • Non-purposive spending and corruptions: Many works sanctioned under MGNREGS often seem to be non-purposive. Quite often, they are politically motivated hotspots to create rampant corruption.
  • Centralization weakening local governance: A real-time MIS-based implementation and a centralised payment system has further left the representatives of the Panchayati Raj Institutions with literally no role in implementation.


  • Large scale social security programmes like MGNREGS are subjected to undergo several stumbling blocks in the times of ongoing pandemic.
  • Government and NGOs must study the impact of MGNREGS in rural areas so as to ensure that this massive anti-poverty scheme is not getting diluted from its actual path.
  • We must view MGNREGS as an opportunity and explicitly include it in a broad-based strategy to tackle any socie-economic crisis.



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