Unemployment Rate at 45-Year High: 4 Key Takeaways From NSSO Data

India’s unemployment rate is at its worst in 45 years. This is the report which had been held back by the government

3 min read

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Video Editor: Abhishek Sharma

India’s unemployment rate was at a 45-year high of 6.1 percent during 2017-18, according to the National Sample Survey Office’s (NSSO) periodic labour force survey (PLFS), reported Business Standard. 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.

The two had alleged that the government was preventing the release of this report despite the approval of the NSC.

The unemployment rate in India was at its highest in 2017-18 since 1972-73, the period since data about jobs is comparable, Business Standard said, quoting documents they had accessed.


The NSSO survey reportedly shows that at 7.8 percent, joblessness is higher in the urban areas of the country than in rural parts, where it was 5.3 percent. Among urban males aged between 15 and 29, unemployment stood at 18.7 percent, as opposed to 8.1 in 2011-12. Among urban females, it was 27.2 percent in 2017-18; it was 13.1 percent in 2011-12, reported Business Standard.

According to the report, among rural males and females between 15 and 29 years of age, unemployment stood at 17 percent and 13.6 percent respectively, as opposed to 5 percent and 4.8 percent respectively in 2011-12.

Madan Sabnavis, Chief Economist at CARE Ratings, told Business Standard that the youth is moving away from agriculture as it is becoming less remunerative and moving to urban areas.

The unemployment rate among the educated also went up in 2017-18 compared to 2004-05. Between 2004-05 and 2011-12, the unemployment rate for educated rural women ranged between 9.7 and 15.2 percent. In 2017-18, it stood at 17.3 percent.

For rural educated males, the rate was 10.5 percent in 2017-18, showing a rise from 3.5-4.4 percent between 2004-05 and 2011-12.

The report also said that the NSSO survey shows that more people are moving out of the workforce, with the labour force participation rate (LFPR) standing lower than other years. The LFPR, which shows the proportion of population working or looking for jobs, stood at 39.5 percent in 2011-12 and slid to 36.9 percent in 2017-18.

According to the Business Standard report, the LFPR has been in decline since 2004-05, and declined at a faster pace in 2017-18 than in 2011-12.

The PLFS is the first annual household survey conducted by the NSSO, conducted for July 2017-June 2018. This report is of considerable significance as it is the first survey on employment conducted after PM Narendra Modi announced and implemented demonetisation.


Opposition Reacts to the Data

The Opposition came down heavily on the BJP government, with the Congress and its members calling out the Centre for the lack of jobs.

Rahul Gandhi reacted to the data, calling out the Modi government’s promises with the hashtag #HowsTheJobs.

Indian National Congress politician Kapil Sibal also reacted to the data, tweeting about it.

In a series of tweets, Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram commented on the ‘death’ of the NSC and its fight to release the report.

Chidambaram also spoke to the media about the report, saying that what little credibility there was in the NSC has been lost.

Congress national spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi also tweeted, commenting on the ‘doctoring of inconvenient data’.

Supreme Court lawyer and Congress politician Jaiveer Shergill joined the ranks of those criticising the government.

Priyank Kharge, Congress MLA from Karnataka was among those tweeting.

Samajwadi Party spokesperson Juhie Singh also tweeted.


Journalists, Economists React to the Data

The data reported by Business Standard has people reacting sharply on Twitter, criticising the state of affairs and questioning the government. Journalists, economists and politicians tweeted about the report and the government’s delay.

However, some decided to put a positive spin on the data, with editorial director of Swarajya, R Jagannathan, saying that this could be seen as ‘half positive’.

While economist Rupa Subramanya tore Jagannathan’s argument apart, journalist Pratik Sinha had a humorous take on it.

(With inputs from Business Standard.)

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