While the employment scenario in the country has turned bleaker of late due to the pandemic after a brief spell of moderate recovery from the fathoms hit in May 2020, manufacturing, which has ostensibly received a lot of policy attention, has been losing out to other sectors and the most to agriculture as job creator over the past few years.
According to an analysis by the Centre for Economic Data and Analysis (CEDA) based on the CMIE monthly time-series of employment by industry, manufacturing employment in 2020-21 was nearly half of what it was five years ago.
The decline was particularly sharper in 2020-21 owing to the pandemic – on a year-on-year basis, the sector employed 32% fewer people in 2020-21 over 2019-20. Real estate & construction also also saw big fall in its share in employment in 2020-21 (see chart) and a secular decline over the five-years to 2020-21.
While there has been a secular decline in manufacturing employment across all sub-sectors, except chemical industries, all sub-sectors registered a longer-term decline. From employing 51 million people in 2016-17, employment in manufacturing, which accounts for 17% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), declined by 46% to reach 27.3 million in 2020-21, reflecting the severity of the employment crisis caused by the pandemic.
Similarly, the real estate and construction sector, which employed 69 million people in 2016-17, employed just 53.7 million in 2020-21, down by a quarter. While the pandemic indeed accentuated the decline, the sector had even earlier been hit hard by inventory pile-up, delivery delays and developer delinquencies. The real estate sector had witnessed a sharp increase in employment growth in the 2004-2011 period, thanks to a boom.
According to the CEDA-CMIE study which covered agriculture, mines, manufacturing, real estate and construction, financial services, non-financial services, and public administrative services, sectors that account for 99% of total employment in the country, agriculture now employs more people than five years ago. The agriculture sector that employed 145.6 million people in 2016-17, employed 151.8 million in 2020-21, allowing its share in employment to grow from 36% to 40% during the period. Employment in agriculture has been on the rise over the last two years with year-on-year growth rates of 1.7% in 2019-20 and 4.1% in 2020-21, indicating a marginal shift away from manufacturing, non-financial services, mining and real estate sectors to the traditional resort for livelihood.
Among the service sectors, non-financial services, the largest component among service industries, the employment rose over the five-year horizon to 119.7 million to 127.7 million in 2020-21, but there was a sharp y-o-y decline in 2020-21, owing to the pandemic.
As reported by FE recently, like the one a year ago, the recent lockdown also has had an immediate, telling effect on the employment scenario in the country. The country’s unemployment rate, that has remained elevated for a few weeks, soared to a near one-year-high of 14.45% in the week ended May 16. While an already-high urban joblessness has turned more acute, a near-100% week-on-week rise in rural unemployment pushed the overall joblessness rate to a level not witnessed since the the week ended June 7 last year, when it stood at 17.51%.