Women's employment in focus as govt starts talks to boost job creation

The latest National Sample Survey Office survey report showed the unemployment rate stood at a 45-year high of 6.1 per cent in 2017-18
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has begun a consultation process on policy reforms required to boost employment in the country, at a time when lack of jobs is an area of concern.

In a September 27 letter to industry bodies and labour unions, Labour and Employment Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar also sought their opinion on increasing the participation of women in the workforce.

“To generate employment at a greater pace, it is necessary for us to understand through you your expectations from the labour and employment ministry to ensure that it becomes convenient to set up new businesses and to help run present enterprises efficiently. This step will play an important role in creating jobs,” Gangwar said, in the letter written in Hindi language.

The move comes at a time when the gross domestic product (GDP) growth has slipped to a six-year low of 5 per cent in the first quarter of this financial year (FY20). The central bank also sharply revised the GDP growth estimates for FY20 to 6.1 per cent, from 6.9 per cent.

The latest National Sample Survey Office survey report showed the unemployment rate stood at a 45-year high of 6.1 per cent in 2017-18. Though the government said the data was not comparable with the past figures because of certain changes in design, former National Statistical Commission chairman P C Mohanan, who had approved the survey, had said the data can be compared.

“We urge you to provide suggestions on policy changes required to be done by the ministry of labour and employment on the following subjects by October 15: employment generation and to set up and run new establishments and industrial units; to increase women’s participation in the workforce,” Gangwar said in his letter. 

The female labour force participation rate declined by around 8 percentage points to 23.3 per cent in 2017-18 compared to 2011-12. In the same period, the decline was twice as much for males.

Sources said the labour ministry is looking for administrative as well as legislative steps to give boost to employment, especially among females.

The labour minister will also seek feedback from state governments on these matters through regional meetings which will kick-start from October 22 in Bhubaneswar, followed by Vadodara, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala and Manipur, a government official said.

“The ministry is in the process of giving shape to the proposed labour codes. At this juncture, it is important for us to understand specifics from both industry and trade unions on job creation. We want to know specifically know which are the policy impediments to employment,” the official said, requesting anonymity.

The government is in the process of combining 35-odd labour laws into four codes. While the Code on Wages became a law in August, the other three codes — on industrial relations, social security, and occupation safety health and working conditions — will be sent for the approval of the Union Cabinet later in FY20.

Flexibility in the hire-and-fire policy has been a key demand of trade and industry for at least two decades. The government had put a proposal for allowing more firms to retrench or shut shops without seeking official permission following protest from trade unions.

According to the first draft of the Labour Code on Industrial Relations Bill, the government had proposed allowing companies with at least 300 workers to retrench without seeking official permission. According to the present law, companies with at least 100 workers do not need the government’s permission to do so. 

The finance ministry has taken a slew of measures to boost economic growth, including a cut in corporation tax rate.  

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