Social unrest, suicides by workers repercussions of GDP growth without enough jobs going around

Data pertaining to high GDP rate, unemployment, suicides and social unrest put together suggests that something is askew in the country in terms of government policies and polity

India's economy battles widespread unemployment, inflation (representative photo)
India's economy battles widespread unemployment, inflation (representative photo)

Dr Gyan Pathak

The unemployment rate on September 5 in India on 30 days moving average was as high as 7.8 per cent. Urban unemployment was even worse at 9.1 per cent, while it is alarming that the rural unemployment rate hovers at 7.2 per cent even during while seasonal agriculture activities are on.

Data furnished by Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) reminds us further that unemployment rate today is far worse than that one year ago in September 2021 when it was 6.86 per cent. Urban unemployment at that time stood at 8.64 and rural unemployment at 6.04 per cent.

The unemployment rate rose to 8.26 per cent in August last month. Urban and rural unemployment rates which stood at 9.57 and 7.68 per cent respectively.

This data on unemployment does not augur well when it is read with another data of high GDP growth rate at 13.5 per cent in the first quarter of FY22-23 compared to a year ago, helped by the base effect, thereby registering the fastest growth in four quarters. This is a clear case of our economic recovery moving fast by ditching our workforce by not providing them proportionate number of jobs at the level of GDP growth rate.

It's a jobless growth, the repercussions of which are now being felt in the society in terms of social unrests and even suicides.

It has been argued for quite some time that workers are committing suicides due to joblessness. Now, official data has confirmed it. The data for National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for the year 2021 has confirmed that suicides by daily wage worker has reached an all time high.

There has been another presumption, that self-employment is, in fact, concealed unemployment. The NCRB data even reveals that among the suicides by workers, suicides by self-employed has also reached an all time high.

This data completely exposes the Modi government's propaganda that people are getting self-employed in large numbers and are doing well for the development of the country. The fact is that the workforce has utterly been left to fend for itself without proper help and support.

The utter neglect of the workforce has pushed the rate of joblessness to a one-year high of 8.3 per cent in August, according to the CMIE data. While both rural and urban unemployment increased significantly this month, the overall rise is driven by joblessness in urban areas. The urban unemployment touched 9.57 per cent in August as against 8.21 per cent the previous month. At the same time, rural unemployment surged to 7.68 per cent from 6.14 per cent in July.

However, the government data gives us a different and quite contrary picture. Everybody knows that India does not maintain real time reliable data on workforce in the country. It is due to this reason that national and international organisations have always asked India for reliable and timely data on labour. The government also admits the importance of timely and reliable data, but it does not maintain it as such.

Nevertheless, as per the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) report released by the Union Government, the unemployment rate has dropped from 12.6 per cent in June quarter last year to 7.6 per cent in the same quarter this year. This data is quite contradictory to the CMIE data which needs to be reconciled.

It should be noted that the government presents usual status of workforce on yearly basis which enables it to present a better picture than the current moving status of the workforce which CMIE collects and compiles.

The current status of the workforce is the worst in the last one year. It is bad for rural India and worse in urban areas. Women in the workforce are suffering more than their male counterparts. While male unemployment dropped to 7.1 per cent, from 7.7 per cent in the last quarter, female unemployment was at 9.5 per cent, as against 10.1 per cent, the CMIE data showed.

The data also shows unemployment at elevated levels of above 7 per cent in June quarter this year, which have continued in August. Employment conditions are quite adverse for the youth, Mahesh Vyas, MD and CEO, CMIE, noted in his analysis earlier this week.

“The 15-24 years age group has a relatively low labour participation rate (LPR). Between 2016-17 and 2021-22, while the average was 42.6 per cent, the LPR for the youth was much lower at 22.7 per cent. Yet, the youth face a much higher unemployment rate. While the overall unemployment rate averaged at 7 per cent, the youth experienced an unemployment rate of over 34 per cent,” he said.

The highest unemployment rate during August, in terms of states, was witnessed in Haryana at 37.3 per cent followed by Jammu and Kashmir at 32.8 per cent, Rajasthan at 31.4 per cent, Jharkhand at 17.3 per cent and Tripura at 16.3 per cent.

When we read the data of high rates of GDP, unemployment, joblessness, suicides and social unrest together, it suggests something very unpleasant brewing underneath which may put the country soon in great difficulty.

(IPA Service)

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