Unemployment in 11 states exceeds national average, shows NSSO report

As many as 11 states had an unemployment rate higher than the pan-Indian average in 2017-18, according to the National Sample Survey Office’s (NSSO’s) annual periodic labour force survey. While Haryana, Assam, Jharkhand, Kerala, Odisha, Uttarakhand, and Bihar continued to have a high level of unemployment compared to the national figures — as was the case in 2011-12 — Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh joined the list in 2017-18. 

In 2011-12, when the last survey was conducted, nine states had a joblessness rate higher than the national level.

Who tops the charts

Kerala continued to post the highest unemployment rate at 11.4 per cent in 2017-18 compared to 6.1 per cent in 2011-12, followed by Haryana (8.6 per cent), Assam (8.1 per cent), and Punjab (7.8 per cent), among 19 major states, shows the report, which takes into account the period between July and June. 

Business Standard has reviewed a copy of the report, whose release has been withheld by the Centre, terming it as a “draft” despite all the necessary approvals in place. The unemployment rate at the national level stood at 6.1 per cent in 2017-18, says the report, compared to 2.2 per cent in 2011-12.

The bottom row

Chhattisgarh had the lowest unemployment rate at 3.3 per cent in 2017-18, followed by Madhya Pradesh (4.5 per cent) and West Bengal (4.6 per cent), even as the rate of joblessness rose in all the major states.

The unemployment rate increased the fastest in Gujarat among major states, from 0.5 per cent in 2011-12 to 4.8 per cent in 2017-18, partly because of a low base. Gujarat had the lowest unemployment rate in the country in 2011-12, but in 2017-18, it reached the same level as Karnataka and surpassed Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Madhya Pradesh, among others. The jump was mainly because of a considerably higher joblessness rate among youth in the state – from 0.8 per cent in 2011-12 to 14.9 per cent in 2017-18 in rural areas, and from 2.1 per cent to 10.7 per cent in urban areas.

“A high unemployment rate in Kerala is mainly due to a high level of education, and is not surprising. Massive surprise is states such as Gujarat and Karnataka, which generally perform well, as they saw a jump in the unemployment rate. Even in Haryana, a typically urbanised state, the unemployment rate went up. So either education levels are going up fast or people are waiting for better jobs," said Amit Basole, head of the Centre for Sustainable Em­ploy­ment, Azim Premji University, Bengaluru.  After Gujarat, the unemployment rate grew the most in Madhya Pradesh (4.5 per cent), Uttar Pradesh (6.4 per cent), and Rajasthan (5 per cent) where the ratio went up over four times compared to 2011-12. The least spike in the unemployment rate among major states was seen in West Bengal, where it stood at 4.6 per cent compared to 3.2 per cent in 2011-12. West Bengal had the fifth-highest unemployment rate among major states in 2011-12 and it was among the bottom five in 2017-18.

The gender divide

A gender-wise analysis of the unemployment situation in the country threw up interesting trends. West Bengal and Bihar were the only states where the rate of joblessness among females declined. 

In Bihar, the unemployment rate for females decreased drastically from 8.8 per cent in 2011-12 (the second-highest in that year) to 2.8 per cent in 2017-18 and in West Bengal, it declined marginally from 3.6 per cent to 3.2 per cent during this period.

In Kerala, almost one-fourth females (23.2 per cent) were unemployed in 2017-18 — the highest among other major states — compared to 14.1 per cent in 2011-12. The unemployment rate among females touched double digits in Assam (13.9 per cent), Punjab (11.7 per cent), and Haryana (11.4 per cent) — almost double the national average for females at 5.7 per cent. Among males, the unemployment rate was the highest in Jharkhand at 8.2 per cent in 2017-18 and went up more than three times from 2.4 per cent in 2011-12. Jharkhand was followed by Haryana (8.1 per cent), Tamil Nadu (7.8 per cent), and Bihar (7.4 per cent).

The youth indices

Among youth, between the age group of 15 and 29 years, the female unemployment rate was at alarming levels in Kerala. Almost three-fourth of female youth, who were willing and able to find employment, didn't get a job (61.7 per cent in rural and 65.2 per cent in urban parts) in 2017-18.

Rural vs urban

In rural Punjab, the unemployment rate among young females rose to 43.5 per cent in 2017-18 from 4.2 per cent in 2011-12. The rate of joblessness among young females was relatively high in the villages of Assam (38.5 per cent), Haryana (29.4 per cent), and Tamil Nadu (26.7 per cent) as well.

In urban areas of Bihar, though the unemployment rate for female youth declined to 38.2 per cent in 2017-18 from 43.4 per cent in 2011-12, it was at the second-highest level among major states. It was followed by Haryana (36.1 per cent) and Odisha (35.3 per cent) in this category.

In rural parts of Tamil Nadu, 30 per cent of urban males were unemployed in 2017-18 and in Assam and Bihar, almost one-fourth of the male youth could not find a suitable job in 2017-18. Similarly, in urban areas, 31 per cent male youth were unemployed in Jharkhand, 28.4 per cent in Bihar and 22.4 per cent in Delhi -- more than double of what was witnessed in 2011-12.

The NSSO report has stated that sample sizes of smaller states and Union Territories may not be sufficient to capture some of the employment and unemployment characteristics. Hence, 19 major states (with population of at least 10 million as per Census 2001) were considered for analysis. None of the Union Territories, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana were taken into account as the latter two states were bifurcated in 2014.


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