Labour picture not that bleak?

By: |
September 29, 2021 4:50 AM

The latest QES numbers paint a sunny picture of labour after the pandemic, though the quality of the data may not be the best

This was a good 29% higher than the 23.7 million reported in the sixth Economic Census (EC-6) of 2013-14. These numbers relate to establishments with 10 or more employees, tracked across nine selected sectors.This was a good 29% higher than the 23.7 million reported in the sixth Economic Census (EC-6) of 2013-14. These numbers relate to establishments with 10 or more employees, tracked across nine selected sectors.

The findings of the Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) put out by the Labour Bureau on Monday are encouraging in that the employment situation seems to have been fairly good during to the April-June quarter of FY22. Contrary to apprehensions that the restricted lockdowns, during the second wave of the pandemic, would continue to leave many jobless, the survey shows the number of new jobs created was 30 million. This was a good 29% higher than the 23.7 million reported in the sixth Economic Census (EC-6) of 2013-14. These numbers relate to establishments with 10 or more employees, tracked across nine selected sectors.

Going by the findings of other surveys, this trend is definitely much more positive. While it was well-known the IT and BPO sectors had started hiring in fairly big numbers—the growth in this sector was 152%—the employment jump in the construction sector at 42% comes as a surprise. The contraction in employment in the trade segment by 25% and, in the accommodation and restaurant sector, by 13%, was to be expected since many enterprises remained closed and were therefore badly impacted during the second wave of the pandemic.

Nearly 90% of the 10,593 units surveyed, are small and employ fewer than 100 workers. Not surprisingly, therefore, less than a fifth of them provide any kind of formal training; the highest levels of training were seen in the IT, financial services and education sectors. Given that the majority of the enterprises are small ones, it is surprising that just one of five workers was not paid in full during the period from March 25-June 30—when the entire country was under a lock-down.

The survey’s findings that just 16% of the workers received reduced wages with only 3% going unpaid don’t seem realistic. What is also really hard to believe is that in the construction sector only about a fourth of the workers were paid reduced wages. Since much of the information seems to have been collected telephonically, rather than through on-the-spot conversations, the information received may not always have been of the quality desired.

Other household surveys like those by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), revealed a more subdued state of the job market with many urban workers losing their livelihoods due to the pandemic. Of the 403.5 million jobs in 2019-20, only 282.2 million survived the lockdown, it said, though the recovery was swift with the job losses narrowing to 11.1 million by July 2020.

The latest data further corroborates what has been known for some time now: that the share of women in the organised sector workforce has been falling. Female workers accounted for 29% in April-June 2021, lower than 31% recorded in EC-6. Moreover, male workers constituted nearly 71% of the workforce and not surprisingly most women work in the education and health sectors.

The survey and its future editions will come in handy while assessing the state of the economy, but one hopes we will have access to more quality information. That can be done if many more workers rather than the employers are visited. The survey does not capture data from units that came up post 2013-14. Surveys of this nature may be a costly exercise but, when conducted on a bigger scale, can prove to be enormously useful.

If needed, the government could ask the private sector to contribute to make the exercise a wider and more fruitful one.

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