The demand for jobs in April under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme (MGNREGS), both at the household as well as the individual level, has been the highest compared with any previous April since 2013-14. The strain on rural livelihoods is possibly the result of the reverse migration which took place last March-April.
The MGNREGS dashboard, maintained by the rural development ministry, showed 2.6 crore households and 3.7 crore persons were looking for work in April this year, higher by 91% and 85%, respectively, over April 2020. In April 2019, 2 crore households and 3 crore individuals wanted work under the rural employment guarantee scheme.
“Demand for jobs under MGNREGS is a valid proxy for both urban and rural unemployment and reflects the extent of under employment in the labour market. The second wave of reverse migration has contributed to the substantial spike in the demand for job under MGNREGS due to shortage of non-farms jobs,” XLRI professor KR Shyam Sundar said.
However, not everyone who wanted work was able to find it. The data showed 1.52 crore households and 2.07 crore individuals got work. Around 18.87 crore person-days of work generated under the scheme in April this year, averaging 12.41 days of work for every household which got work.
In the whole of 2020-21, 7.56 crore households and 11.19 crore individuals got work under MGNREGS and a total of 389.31 crore person-days of work was created, averaging 51.51 days of work for every household who got work.
The scheme’s mandate under the MGNREG Act 2005 is to provide at least 100 days of ‘wage employment’ in a financial year to every rural household whose adult member volunteers to do unskilled manual work. This goal has never been met.
According to Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), rural unemployment spiked marginally to 6.37% for the week ended April 25 compared with 6.18% for the week ended March 28. During the period, urban unemployment, however, rose sharply to 9.55% from 7.72%.
For the 2021-22 fiscal, the government has allocated `73,000 crore under MGNREGS, down from Rs 1.11 lakh crore in 2020-21 and Rs 68,265 crore in 2019-20.