Unemployment rate in urban India was 9.4% in January-March 2021 quarter, higher than 9.1% prevailed in the year-ago quarter, which immediately preceded the period when the first Covid wave hit the country.
The latest available results of the quarterly Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), conducted by the ministry of statistics and programme implementation (MoSPI), also showed that 23% of urban youth in the 15-29 years age group remained unemployed in the January-March period of the current year, as against 21.1% in the year-ago quarter.
Since then the situation must not have improved much either; in fact, the second Covid wave may have even worsened the situation.
While the results of quarterly PLFS come with a lag, according to Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), which provides more frequent insights into the employment scenario, urban joblessness rate rose to its 11-week high of 8.75% in the week ended November 28. The rate in towns and cities was 8.14% in the previous week and 9.2% for the week ended September 12, the highest level in recent times.
As per the PLFS yardsticks, the activity status of a person is determined on the basis of reference period of last seven days preceding the date of survey, as her current weekly status (CWS). Unemployment rate is defined as the percentage of the unemployed persons in the labour force.
Labour force participation rate, which is defined as the percentage of population in the labour force for all age groups remained static during the January-March period of the current year at 37.5%, same as in the corresponding period last year.
Unemployment rate among the urban youth of the 15-29 years age group rose to 19.2% and 21.1% respectively in the pre-lockdown periods of October-December, 2019 and January-March, 2021 respectively. Lockdown was first imposed to control the spread of the virus on March 25, 2020.
Former JNU professor Santosh Mehrotra said, “Those with fresh secondary/higher secondary education or graduates always find it difficult to get jobs because of inadequate or no experience. Youth unemployment had tripled between 2012 and 2019. Unless these people are imparted with proper training right from the school level, India will always miss their services and the fabled demographic dividend will be found wanting.”
As per the latest quarterly PLFS report, urban females in the 15-29 age group are worse sufferers than their male counterparts. If nearly one in four of urban females of the above age group in the labour force remained unemployed in the October-December period of 2019, nearly 30% of such persons were jobless in the January-March quarter of the current year. “It’s a worrying reality that women always find it difficult to get jobs, whether it is during the pandemic or in normal times. Even when a revival (of the jobs market) happens, it benefits men more than women. Low work participation among women is a perennial problem in the country,” said Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder and EVP, Teamlease Services.
The quarterly PLFS, which is now limited to urban areas, is different from annual PLFS report. Annual PLFS covers both urban and rural areas and gives estimates of labour force indicators both in CWS and usual status (US) method. US method records only those persons as unemployed who had no gainful work for a major time during 365 days preceding the date of survey and were seeking or available for work.