Surveying India’s unemployment numbers (The Hindu)
Mains Paper 1: Economy
Prelims level: SDDS
Mains level: Economic growth, development and unemployment issues
- Monthly measurement of the unemployment rate is one of the requirements of
the Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS) of the International Monetary
- The SDDS India was one of the early signatories was established in 1996 to
help countries access the international capital markets by providing adequate
economic and financial information publicly.
- India complies with many requirements of the SDDS, but it has taken an
exception with respect to the measurement of unemployment.
- The Centre for Monitoring India Economy (CMIE), a private enterprise, has
demonstrated over the past three years that fast frequency measures of
unemployment can be made and that seeking an exception on SDDS compliance is
Higher frequency survey
- The CMIE decided to fill India’s gap in generating fast frequency measures
of household well-being in 2014.
- In its household survey, called the Consumer Pyramids Household Survey (CPHS),
the sample size was 172,365 as compared to that of the official National Sample
Survey Organisation (NSSO), which was 101,724.
About CPHS system
- The CPHS is comprehensive, surveying its entire sample every four months.
Each survey is a wave. The CPHS is also a continuous survey, and so, for
example, three waves are completed in a year.
- The CMIE’s CPHS thus has a much larger sample and is conducted at a much
higher frequency than the NSSO’s.
- The CPHS is conducted as face-to-face interviews necessarily using
GPS-enabled smartphones or tablets.
- Intense validation systems ensure high fidelity of data capture. All
validations are conducted in real-time while the teams are in the field.
- The data capture machinery ensures delivery of high quality data in real
time obviating the need for any further “cleaning”, post field operations.
CPHS vs. NSSO
- A difference between the CPHS and the NSSO surveys is the reference period
of the employment status of a respondent.
- While the NSSO tries to capture the status for an entire year and for a
week, the CPHS captures the status as on the day of the survey.
- This could be as one of four factors: employed; unemployed willing to work
and actively looking for a job; unemployed willing to work but not actively
looking for a job, and unemployed but neither willing nor looking for a job.
- The CPHS has been able to capture the status fairly accurately with no
challenges of the respondent’s ability to recall or interpret the status. In
contrast, the NSSO’s system is quite complex.
- The large CPHS sample is distributed evenly across rural and urban regions
for every week of the execution cycle of 16 weeks of a wave.
- It is this machinery that enables us to understand the Indian labour market
with fast-frequency measures.
- The most important message from the data is that India’s labour
participation rate is very low by world standards and that even this low
participation rate fell very sharply after demonetisation.
- The average labour participation rate was 47% during January-October 2016.
The world average is about 66%.
- Immediately after demonetisation in November 2016, India’s labour
participation rate fell to 45%; 2% of the working age population, i.e. about 13
million, moved out of labour markets.
- That is a lot of people who were willing to work who decided that they did
not want to work anymore.
- The data show that it was not the employed who lost jobs and decided to
stop working. The employed mostly retained their jobs.
- But it was largely the unemployed who decided that the labour markets had
been so badly vitiated after demonetisation that they gave up looking for jobs
- As more and more unemployed left the labour market, the unemployment rate
- This is because the unemployment rate is the ratio of the unemployed to the
total labour force.
- This fall gave misleading or at least confusing signals, almost implying
that the unemployment rate was falling in a positive sense.
- In reality it was a reflection of an exodus of the unemployed from the labour markets a fall in the labour participation rate.
- And this underlines the much greater importance of the labour participation
On female labour
- India’s female labour participation rate is very low. Official statistics
have always shown that India’s female labour participation rate is low and
- Researchers have shown that this fall is because of rising household
incomes that reduce the need for women to join the labour force;
- To increased enrolment in higher education by women which delays their
entry into the labour force, and cultural and security factors that keep women
away from the labour market in India.
- Further, it is evident that employers are also biased against hiring women.
- The CPHS shows that the situation with respect to women’s participation in
the labour force is extremely poor much poorer than what the official agencies
- The entire brunt of demonetisation was borne by women. Their labour
participation fell sharply while that of men did not.
Labour participation rate
- Male labour participation rate was 74.5% in 2016. This dropped to 72.4% in
2017 and then to 71.7% in 2018.
- In contrast, female labour participation was as low as 15.5% in 2016 which
dropped to 11.9% in 2017 and then 11% in 2018.
- Urban female labour participation rates fell faster than rural female
participation. In urban India it dropped from 15.2% in 2016 to 10.5% in 2018.
- The corresponding values for rural women were 15.6% and 11.3%,
- Although female labour participation is substantially much lower than male
participation, the few women who venture to get employment find it much more
difficult to find jobs than men. The unemployment rate for men was 4.9% in 2018
and that for women in the same year was much higher 14.9%.
- This higher unemployment rate faced by women in spite of a very low
participation rate indicates a bias against employing women.
- Drawing women into the labour force by removing the impediments they face
to at least bring their participation levels close to global standards is
critically important for India to gain from the demographic dividend opportunity
- This window of opportunity is open only till 2030. By not using a good data
monitoring machinery, the Indian government is keeping both itself and the
citizenry in the dark.
Q.1) The Shannon Mandate is associated with which of the following?
(a) Nuclear proliferation
(b) Green Climate Fund
(c) Outer Space treaty
(d) Protection of ocean resources
Q.1) How India can improve labour participation rate as per world context? What
are reasons behind labour participation low in among women?