The report also showed that joblessness was highest among urban female youth (27.2%); urban, educated Indians--men (9.2%) and women (19.8%)--and among women in general (10.8%).
Other data sources appear to back the finding that formal, non-farm employment has risen. These include monthly payroll data released by the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) and the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA).
Why ‘decent employment’ is important
“Decent employment” is a key government ambition, in line with the sustainable development goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. Goal number eight says: “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.”
For the two (written jobs contract, and paid leave) of three indicators for ‘decent employment’, there has been a decline in urban, non-farm employment, a closer look at the data reveals, but by the third indicator (social security benefits) shows an uptick and that, as we explain, is more significant.
The first indicator for decent employment in non-farm, urban sectors is a written job contract or a formal agreement with the employer about the duration of the job. By this yardstick, the latest PLFS report shows that the share of regular workers (with a written job contract) in urban areas declined from 40.9% in 2004-05 to 27.6% in 2017-18, and 38.8% to 28.6% for women.
The PLFS report shows that the share of regular workers eligible for paid leave--the second indicator for “decent employment”--declined in urban areas from 54.5% in 2004-05 to 47.2% in 2017-18, and 52.0% to 48.2% for women.
The third and most important indicator for decent employment conditions is the share of regular workers eligible for social security benefits--provident fund, pension, gratuity, health care, and maternity benefits--which, however, has increased by 6.2 percentage points from 46.6% in 2004-05 to 52.3% in 2017-18, and 40.4% to 49.9% for women .
The PLFS 2017-18 thus confirms that there has been a decline in the number of regular workers having a written contract and getting paid leaves. Yet, the silver lining is the increase in the number of formal workers in urban areas receiving social security benefits as a result of continued government efforts over the last 13 years.
(Kumar and Mehta are PhDs in economics and development economics, respectively, and are associated with the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi and Institute for Human Development, Delhi)
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