Rural India learns to cut job risk

Written by Mahua Venkatesh | New Delhi, Jan 30 | Updated: Jan 31 2008, 06:20am hrs
The economic fabric of rural India is changing with households consciously trying to reduce risk by diversifying their job profiles. Though farming continues to be the main profession, most male members of a typical rural family are taking up non-agriculture jobs while the womenfolk continue to focus on agriculture.

The shift will ensure that income in rural households is not choked with a failed monsoon, Pronab Sen secretary, ministry of statistics and programme implementation, told FE. Job opportunities are no more as scarce as it used to be, thanks to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), he said, adding that India being an agrarian society a major shift from agriculture may not be feasible.

Commenting on the latest 62nd round NSSO survey, Sen said besides taking up non-agriculture jobs, there has been a significant rise in seasonal migration to the urban areas by the male members. A large number of seasonal migrants come to the towns in search of employment. However, they come only during the slack season to sustain the inflow of income. According to official data, there is a demand of employment by 2.61 crore households under the NREGS. Of these over 2 crore households have been provided employment, the data says.

The survey has pointed out that while aggregate employment has slipped by 2%, self-employment has zoomed. More than half the working population of rural India is now self-employed.

In urban India too, the tertiary sector employed 59% of male workers, while the secondary sector accounted for 34% of workers. The data also shows unemployment rate in the rural areas was around 2% while it was 5% in urban areas.

The changing demographic profile of rural India will spell good news for India Inc, especially for fast moving consumer goods companies as a large chunk of their total revenue now originates essentially in the rural markets.

Since the disposable incomes among rural households until now have been directly linked to good and successful monsoons, diversification in job profiles is expected to cut the risk.