Debate: What Does Holding Back the NSSO Unemployment Data Mean?

India’s unemployment rate was at a 45-year high of 6.1 percent during 2017-18. 

2 min read

A Business Standard report cited data from the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), which said that India’s unemployment rate was at a 45-year high of 6.1 percent during 2017-2018. This is the report which had been held back by the government and is at the centre of a controversy after two National Statistical Commission (NSC) members, including the acting chairman, resigned on Monday, 28 January.

BloombergQuint’s Tamanna spoke with the Business Standard’s AK Bhattacharya and Madan Sabnavis, chief economist of CARE ratings, on the kind of questions that holding back of such data raises, the government’s defence, why the report is being held back and much more.

The debate started with a clip of NITI Aayog’s press conference being played, where the Vice-Chairman, Rajiv Kumar could be seen saying that the data had not been completed and was pending the government’s approval.

Kumar also stated that the data was being collected in a very different way. Hence, verifying the data was extremely important, as a result of which the report was taking this much time to be released officially.

“Since this data is still being processed, the government hadn’t released this data. The plan was to release the data for six quarters.”
Rajiv Kumar, Vice-Chairman, NITI Aayog

NITI Aayog also said that it is wrong comparing this data with that of 2011-2012, since the methodology of gaining data back then was different from what it is now.

Debate on The Report Being Held Back

AK Bhattacharya, Editorial Director of Business Standard, said that the bigger problem than the data itself, was the fact that it had been hidden. He asked that if, as NITI Aayog said, the data was not verified, then what was the explanation behind the two resignations in the National Statistical Commission.

“The government is, of course going to defend itself by saying things they’re saying. But the more important thing is that such data on the employment and joblessness situation in the country should be released without any delay.” 
AK Bhattacherya, Editorial Director, Business Standard

He also said that the focus should be on the attempts being made to not even make an unverified draft report public.

Madan Sabnavis, contradicted NITI Aayog’s stance. He said that there is nothing wrong in drawing comparisons like the 2011-2012 to 2017-2018 comparison drawn up in the report. He said that methodologies do keep changing as they are a representative of what is happening.

Further, Sabnavis said that the numbers were not unexpected.

“If you look around, at the agriculture sector, the self employed and the corporate sector, we definitely haven’t seen jobs increasing. Even if we look at the jobs created, as a section of the report says, it is only because consumption and sales are increasing at a remarkable rate.”
Madan Sabnavis

He further said that instead of trading guns and brushing things under the carpet, we should focus on how more jobs could be generated.

(With inputs from BloombergQuint)

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