Battling a perception of “jobless growth”, the government is gearing up to commission a nationwide household survey with an aim to bring out a comprehensive series of annual national jobs as well as quarterly urban employment estimates to aid policymaking, Niti Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya said on Friday.
The National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) has already started collecting data in this regard from April this year even before the government set up a task force headed by Panagariya to suggest solutions for creating a reliable employment database. The task force, which was set up on May 9, is expected to submit its report in a few weeks.
After reports of job losses in several sectors including in the IT sector surfaced, some critics have said that the economic growth reported did not produce commensurate growth in jobs. However, Panagariya said this premise was ill-conceived and was largely based on the quarterly employment survey (QES) of the Labour Bureau. The QES sample is not representative of all sectors and only covers 3 crore workers in eight sectors, but the total workforce in India including the farm sector is about 47 crore, he said.
According to the latest QES data, around 1.52 lakh casual workers engaged across eight sectors, including manufacturing and IT/BPO, lost their jobs during the three-month period of October-December, 2016, wherein the government announced demonetisation of specified high-value banknotes. However, overall, there was an increase of 1.22 lakh jobs during the period, it reported.
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“The QES covered 11 states and the worst problem is that it is a non-random survey,” Panagariya said. The numbers provided by QES have other serious flaws also, he added. The net result has been that both policymaking and analysis are conducted in a data vacuum.
“(What we are looking at now is) a regular household-based survey (urban and rural) that will produce annual nationwide employment estimate and that will also produce quarterly urban employment estimates,” he said.
Besides household survey, the task force is also looking at whether establishment surveys can also be undertaken to build a strong and reliable data base on jobs. In the case of establishment surveys, the sample has to be updated annually to reflect a correct picture.
Similarly, the panel is also looking at whether establishment data from the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), new pension system (NPS) and Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) could be used to capture formal sector employment data. However, the problem is that India’s formal sector job expansion has not happened in a way it should have been. “Such data has to be looked at carefully,” he said. Data will also be gathered from government’s employment guarantee scheme, Mudra Yojana and other centrally sponsored schemes.
According to the latest Labour Bureau data, casual workers in the manufacturing sector were the worst hit with 1.13 lakh people losing their jobs during October-December last year, followed by 20,000 in the IT/BPO sector. QES is an establishment-based fixed panel survey in the non-farm industrial economy of the country having 10 or more workers in these selected sectors. It collected information from around 10,630 units as a representative sample in these eight sectors.