Labour bureau worker crunch: Quarterly job survey in danger

Written by Surabhi Rastogi | Surabhi | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 2 2012, 09:08am hrs
The government could soon be forced to shelve its only official estimate that captures employment trends in the country on a quarterly basis, ironically due to a manpower crunch in the labour bureau that conducts the survey.

The bureau has written to the union labour and employment ministry, seeking permission to stop its quarterly survey on the effect of economic slowdown on employment in India, saying it does not have enough people to carry out the exercise.

The request by the labour bureau comes at a time when its latest survey for the quarter ended June 2012 showed that employment generation in eight key manufacturing and services sectors slumped to its lowest in four quarters.

We have written to the labour ministry asking it to discontinue the quarterly surveys as we do not have the required manpower for this. We are already coming out with annual employment and unemployment surveys that take up our time and also provide data on all sectors, a senior labour bureau official told The Indian Express.

The labour ministry had started the quarterly survey in 2009 to get quick estimates of the impact of the global financial slowdown on the Indian workforce in nine key sectors. Until then, the only official countrywide statistics on employment were available every five years when the national sample survey organisation released employment and unemployment data.

The Chandigarh-based labour bureau contends that it has a vacancy of over 25%. The bureau had advertised for field investigators on a contract basis even to conduct the annual employment-unemployment survey for 2012.

The bureau has so far carried out 15 such surveys, with the last report covering the first quarter of the current fiscal. It revealed that quarter-on-quarter employment growth of 0.73 lakh in eight sectors in the April-June quarter was the lowest compared to the last three quarters.

There is a dearth of trained field investigators to collect data in the government sector. Most of them prefer private jobs, a senior official said.

The labour bureau has also argued for discontinuing the quarterly surveys, saying the sample size is very small and is often not very responsive. Alternatively, it has suggested that the sample units should be asked to voluntarily send data on employment.

Many times the units dont want to share data with us, making the survey a difficult and time-consuming activity, the labour bureau official said. For the first quarter job-loss survey, the bureau collected data from 2,724 sample units from the eight selected sectors of textiles, including apparels, leather, metals, automobiles, gems and jewellery, transport, IT/BPO and handloom and powerloom.