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Will Nirmala Sitharaman’s Promise Of 6 Million Jobs Hold Good?

India will create 6 million jobs over the next five years, said the finance minister while presenting the Union Budget of 2022-23. However, in reality, it does not seem easy, and nor will it be adequate.

India faces growing unemployment even though ministers promise for more jobs.
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The production-linked incentive (PLI) across 14 sectors has the potential to generate 60 lakh jobs, said finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday while presenting the Union Budget of 2022-23. She further added that the PLI scheme has received a “tremendous response”. “The production linked incentive (PLI) scheme for achieving Aatmanirbhar Bharat has received an excellent response, with potential to create 60 lakh new jobs,” she said speech in the Parliament. 

As of December 21, India had 53 million unemployed people, of which a huge proportion were women, according to the Centre Of Monitoring Indian Economy. Its MD and CEO Mahesh Vyas, in his analysis of the December data, said that 35 million people were actively looking for work in December 2021, of which 23 per cent or eight million were women. The unemployment rate saw a sharp decline to 6.57 per cent in January, the lowest since March 2021, as the country gradually recovers with the easing of restrictions following a decline in Omicron cases. 

Is Covid-19 Causing Unemployment? 

India’s unemployment rate was high even before the Covid pandemic gripped the country, causing deterioration of economic activities. According to various reports and data collated over the past few years, as unemployment has risen and labour force participation has fallen, employment opportunities for India’s youth have worsened. Much before the pandemic, India’s unemployment rate in 2017-18 was 6.1 per cent, the worst in over four decades. The report was published by National Sample Survey Office’s (NSSO’s) jobs survey in 2019. 

In June 2021, following the disastrous second wave of Covid-19, the UN said that the economic crisis caused by the pandemic is expected to contribute to global unemployment of more than 200 million people next year, with women and youth workers the worst hit. In India alone, during the first lockdown, the unemployment rate in urban areas rose to 20.9 per cent during the April-June quarter of 2020, more than double the unemployment rate in the same quarter the previous year (8.9 per cent). 

 

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Men at work in a factory. (Credit: Shutterstock)

In March 2020, when the lockdown was imposed, migrant workers from the informal sector faced large-scale unemployment due to restrictions of movements and strict curbs. The migrant exodus of 2020, historically, has become one of the biggest plights of millions losing dealing with the loss of income, food shortages and uncertainty about their future. 

On September 14, 2020, the Labour and Employment Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar had stated that as per information collected from various states, that witnessed a migrant exodus, an estimated 10 million workers from the unorganised sector had attempted to return home. The following day, he stated in the Parliament that no data was maintained on the number of migrants in the country who had either died or become unemployed, as a result of the pandemic. 

The rural economy has been mostly kept afloat due to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). However, a report by The Indian Express states that the government allocation for this scheme remains inadequate and wage growth rates for the financial year 2021-22 is less than 5 per cent in most states and wage payments are often delayed. 

On the other hand, the Standing Committee on Labour (April 2021) noted that the pandemic led to large-scale unemployment for female workers, in both organised and unorganised sectors. A report states that the female unemployment rate has generally been higher than the male unemployment rate in the country, 7.3 per cent and 9.8 per cent respectively, during the October-December quarter of 2019. With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, this gap seems to have widened. During the October-December quarter of 2020, the unemployment rate for females was 13.1 per cent, as compared to 9.5 per cent for males. 

 

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Youth filling up job application forms. (Credit: PTI)

Restless Youth 

A passenger train was torched on fire last week in Gaya as protests against the Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) examination entered its third day in Bihar. Several protests are being held against alleged anomalies in the tests conducted by the Railway Recruitment Board (RRD) for the Non-Technical Popular Categories (RRB NTPC). 

The protest followed after the RRD conducted a two-tier examination and students alleged that the notification in 2019 only mentioned one examination. The concern was raised after the results were declared on January 15. The students alleged that it is unfair for students, who cleared the first half of the exam, to again appear for the second one. The Railways, however, had issued a clarification in which it said that the second stage exam was clearly mentioned in the notification. 

The agitating students have accused the government of playing with their lives and snatching away their employment opportunities. The crisis points out a deeper unemployment problem in Bihar, which is worse than the national average. Unemployment in Bihar had reportedly gone up 31.2 per cent between April 2017 and April 2020, to reach 46.6 per cent. The unemployment rate in the state was higher than the national average during the pandemic. 

 

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India's growing unemployment despite job promises made by politicians. (Credit: Shutterstock)

With unemployment rates going up in leaps and bounds, it was, perhaps, imperative that Nirmala Sitharaman implicitly recognised that India is reeling under widespread unemployment and that the government aims to create 6 million jobs over the next five years. However, given the size of the problem at hand, her prescription may be a case of too little, too late. 

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