Job crisis for real as unemployment hits 6.1%, highest in 45 years

A day after taking took oath, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government released the first periodic labour force survey (PLFS) which showed the unemployment rate at a 45-year-high of 6.1 per cent in 2017-18.

Chief statistician Pravin Srivastava, while releasing the report, said the figures from the past were not “strictly comparable” due to a change in sampling design and frame, but the PLFS report itself has compared figures from the past. The report has also given an explanatory note on the change in sampling design, data collection methods, sample collection, among others.

Business Standard was the first to report in January that the unemployment rate had risen to a 45-year-high, as per the NSSO’s PLFS report of 2017-18. However, the government had termed it as a ‘draft report’ then.

The National Statistical Commission (NSC) – an independent body for monitoring the country’s statistics and its framework – had approved the report in December last year but the government withheld the release of the report. This was one of the reasons which had led to the resignation of PC Mohanan, the acting chairman of the NSC, and another member, JV Meenakshi in January this year.

“Whenever you launch a new product, it needs to be tested and hence, it takes take,” Srivastava said, while justifying the delay in releasing the report. He said that though the report, approved by the NSC, had compared figures from the past NSSO reports, a need for review was felt. “The report was referred to a standing committee which has given its report last week itself,” he said.

According to the PLFS report data, the labour force participation rate (LFPR) – the proportion of population either seeking jobs or are employed – fell to below 50 per cent. The LFPR stood at 49.8 per cent in 2017-18, compared to 55.9 per cent in 2011-12. 
Significantly, the unemployment rate among youth, those between 15 and 29 years of age, rose sharply in 2017-18. It stood at 27.2 per cent for urban females in 2017-18, compared to 13.1 per cent in 2011-12, 18.7 per cent for urban males (8.1 per cent in 2011-12), 13.6 per cent for rural females (from 4.8 per cent in 2011-12) and 17.4 per cent for rural males (from 5 per cent).

The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation clarified that the criteria for “second stage stratification” was changed to education status from consumption expenditure which was used to do surveys earlier. “There is no question of any comparison as there is a change in the way of measurement. Education has played an important role with level of education rising in the country and it was felt that it should be taken as a criterion for the survey,” Srivastava said.

“The results of the PLFS need to be understood and used in the context with which the survey methodology and sample selection has been designed,” the NSSO report stated.

Srivastava said that the consumption expenditure survey, which is slated to release in June end, will capture some trends of employment and unemployment which may be compared with the past NSSO reports.