New slogans come with a hope of a better tomorrow and are therefore pleasing to ears. The promise of one crore new jobs in Uttar Pradesh, the state’s economy striving to attain the size of one trillion dollar by 2024, one-district, one-product scheme and the administration seen to be doing something for migrant workers—they all seem good in theory. They can change the collective psyche of the state, from one of identity obsessed to development-oriented perhaps. But are they game changers? Many of them don’t seem to be backed by solid out-of-the-box follow up action.
Let us consider the promise of new jobs in excess of one crore. It looks like a bulk of them will be Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) gobs. The UP government claims to have given MNREGS jobs to more than 60 lakh people in the current financial year. There are nearly 90 lakh active MNREGS job card holders in the state. If all of them are given jobs this years and plus some from the community of migrant workers, the one crore target can be exceeded in no time.
Resumption of Economic Activities to Provide Jobs
Then there are reports of real estate companies promising to hire people now that the construction work has resumed. All those who get government contracts will do some hiring. The state government claims to have done a lot for the revival of the MSME sector which was hit hard by the pandemic induced lockdown. This resumption of work means some hiring by such enterprises as well. All such hiring would have happened anyway.
Should the government be taking credit for that and claiming record addition of jobs?
UP government, along with some other governments, must be lauded for their efforts on providing relief through MNREGS jobs during the period of intense lockdown. When everything else was shut, such intervention would definitely have provided some succour. But these are emergency measures, aimed to provide relief during a period of distress. Can they be counted as substitute for long-term jobs?
UP Needs Constant Supply of Regular Salaried Jobs
To get a sense of what UP needs to do on the job front, we need to go through the 2017 International Labour Organisation report titled The State of Employment in Uttar Pradesh. The part that deserves mention here is the one that says that not more than 12 percent of all workers in the state are into some regular salaried jobs. The all India average on this count is 20 percent. Most of UP’s working population are either self-employed (most of them in the farm sector) or casual workers. While there has been some reduction in the proportion of self-employed people, there has been accompanying growth in the number of casual workers. It is not such a desirable outcome.
What UP, therefore, needs is a dramatic increase in supply of regular salaried jobs, at least to catch up with the national average. Will the current set of announcements do something to achieve that? What they will do instead is increase the ranks of casual workers.
Will this still be a game changer? Since we don’t know the extent of job losses because of lockdown in UP, we may never get to know whether there has been net gain after the promised addition of one crore jobs.
There is no denying that in the midst of acute recession, the kind of state we are already in, any attempt to create jobs must be lauded. The UP government deserves credit for making the right noises. However, for a long-term sustainable recovery of jobs, not just in UP but elsewhere too, a whole lot more needs to be done.
A Trillion-Dollar economy in Four Years?
Yet another slogan we keep hearing these days is regarding UP achieving a landmark one trillion dollar economy size by 2024. The current size of UP’s economy is close to Rs 16 lakh crore. For it to become one trillion dollar, it has to more than quadruple in the next four years. In other words, an annual growth rate in excess of 30 percent till 2024. Still possible?
According to one estimate, the state’s economy will touch the trillion dollar mark in 10 years if it keeps growing at an annual rate of 16 percent. However, if the present rate persists (that, too, seems difficult now given the adverse impact of the pandemic), the trillion-dollar dream may happen only by 2034-35.
For the record, UP has not seen a growth rate in excess of 10 percent in at least two decades. A 16 per cent or a 30 percent growth therefore seems more like day-dreaming.
If adding one core new jobs and having one trillion dollar economy are goals worth pursuing to take UP out of the cycle of poverty and deprivation, they are fine. But we need to be mindful of the actual growth potential of the state. Has anything changed on the ground to suggest a dramatic turnaround henceforth? It doesn’t seem to be the case, unless a miracle is round the corner.
(Mayank Mishra is a senior journalist who writes on Indian economy and politics, and their intersection. He tweets at @Mayankprem. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed in this article are that of the writer’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)