After a 45-year high unemployment rate in the year 2017-18, India’s employment condition improved in 2018-19 before the coronavirus pandemic hit, the government data showed. Between July 2018 and June 2019, India’s unemployment rate fell to 5.8 per cent from 6.1 per cent during the same period a year ago, said the latest Periodic Labour Force (PLFS) survey released by the government. The fall in the unemployment rate is observed even as the labour force participation rate rose to 37.5 per cent from 36.9 per cent, which means more jobs were generated for not only those who were already a part of the labour market but for the new entrants too.
The percentage of employed persons in the population increased to 35.3 per cent from 34.7 per cent in 2017-18. A major change in the pattern observed in the current survey showed that more women have started to work independently or as a salaried employee, instead of working as casual labour.
More women in organised sector
While the percentage of self-employed women significantly increased from 57.7 per cent in FY18 to 59.6 per cent in FY19 in rural areas, those working as casual labour decreased from 31.8 per cent to 29.3 per cent during the same time. In urban areas, the percentage of women working as casual labour fell from 13.1 per cent in 2017-18 to 10.7 per cent in 2018-19, while the percentage of salaried women increased from 52.1 per cent to 54.7 per cent in the same duration.
Meanwhile, the nationwide lockdown to arrest the spread of the coronavirus pandemic has caused a bloodbath in India’s job market. While lakhs of migrant labourers were thrown out of the job overnight, the job loss in the organised sector was also significant. Even after the lockdown was partially lifted in the month of May 2020, the unemployment rate is still as high as 23.5 per cent, which is much higher than pre-pandemic levels.