From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Nothing Much
Mains level : Resolution of underlying economic challenges should be the foremost agenda.
India’s problem is not unemployment — this has bounced in the low and narrow range of 4-7 per cent for 50 years — but employed poverty. Our traditional labour market shock absorbers — farm employment and self-employment — are dying because kids born after 1991 are unaccepting of self-exploitation and recognise the wage premiums, identity, dignity, soft skills, apprenticeship effect, and financial inclusion of formal jobs.
1.Poor Formalisation –
India’s 6.3 crore enterprises only convert to 12 lakh GST registrants, 10 lakh provident fund payers, and 19,500 companies with a paid up capital of Rs 10 crore or more because of our regulatory cholesterol — 58,000-plus compliances, 3000-plus filing, and 5000-plus changes every year.
2. Facilitating ease of business –
We need massive ease-of-doing business that rationalises (cuts down ministries, compliances, and filings), simplifies (adopts a universal enterprise number and one labour code) and digitises (adopts a paperless, presenceless and cashless process for all employer compliance by shifting from uploads to websites to an API architecture with straight-through-processing).
3. Reverse payroll wedge
- India’s labour laws have an insane reverse payroll wedge — employers are forced to deduct 40 per cent-plus of gross wages from chithi waali salary (gross wages) for employees with monthly wages up to Rs 25,000.
- Yet, haath waali salary (net wages) are only 9 per cent lower for employees with monthly wages above Rs 25,000.
- This wedge murders formalisation and confiscates property from the poor; all wages belong to employees in a cost-to-company world.
Need of competition to fix Reverse payroll wedge
- Fixing this wedge needs competition; EPFO is the world’s most expensive government securities mutual fund (300-plus basis points for administration fees) and Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) is the world’s most expensive health insurance programme (less than 50 per cent of contributions are paid out as benefits).
- The reform agenda is clear — employee contribution must be made optional, employees must choose who handles their employer contributions, and social security programme fees must be capped to their costs.
- One driver of 20 million new social security payers has been the Pradhan Mantri Rojgar Protsahan Yojna — this partial reimbursement to employers for incremental low-wage employees has incentivised social security enrolment, is easy to verify, and hard to fudge and should be extended for a fixed period of three years.
4.Challenges before skill development
- Our skill development system faces the difficult trinity of cost, quality and quantity combining with challenging changes to the world of education.
- In a world where Google knows everything, knowing is not as important as lifelong learning and hard skills become a necessary but not sufficient condition for the wage premium.
Lack of Apprenticeships –
Apprenticeships are the future of learning, yet India only has 5 lakh apprentices instead of 1.5 crore (if we use Germany’s number of 2.7 per cent of the labour force).
Ways to improve Apprenticeship –
- Changes could include merging the two central government initiatives, Regional Directorates Of Apprenticeship Training (RDAT) and Board of Apprentice Training (BOAT), operate effective online matching platforms and reinforcing the regulatory legitimacy of apprenticeships as classrooms to overcome the trust deficit with employers.
- Most importantly, we must enable degree-linked apprentices (skill universities await clearance for linking apprentices to degrees via distance and online delivery).
- There must also be a focus on financialisation reform and sustainable competition.
- Fairly-priced capital catalyses formalisation, yet India’s credit to GDP ratio is 50 per cent (rich countries are at 100 per cent). Sadly, Arunachal Pradesh is at one per cent and Bihar is 17 per cent.
- Lowering our cost of money has begun but sustainably targeting a higher credit to GDP ratio needs more bank licences, fixing the governance at nationalised banks, blunting the asset liability mismatch at NBFCs (some irrationally funded 30 per cent of their balance sheet with commercial paper) and restoring the sanctity of the 270-day IBC bankruptcy deadline.
- More Indian enterprises need formal financial credit — capital investment and working capital availability drive productivity — without replicating the rash lending between 2008 and 2014 that gave us Rs 14 lakh crore worth of bad loans.
6.Labour as a state subject
We should consider making labour a state subject and must continue the decentralisation of funds, functions and functionaries to states while simultaneously creating accountability, capabilities and resources in city governance.
The 67 per cent-plus turnout in our recent election not only reflect the invisible threads that hold India together but capture an aspiration that breaks with India’s economic past. This dua needs policy to pray to the one god of formal jobs.