INDIA: Hiding data can’t hide jobless growth

By Avinash Pandey

Contrary to the claims of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India seems to have been losing jobs at a staggering rate, with unemployment rates reaching a decade-long high. From 2.6% between 1977-78 and 2011-12, it has now jumped to 7.23% in February 2019. Unemployment rates are worst for youth, touching almost 20 percent among those with a senior secondary school degree. In other words, every fifth young person looking for a job in India is currently unemployed.

Although the government has stopped sharing job data since 2016, claiming that there are jobs but no data, what data is available reveals that India lost almost 10.9 million jobs in 2018 alone. The Centre for Monitoring of the Indian Economy (CMIE), with a sample size larger than that of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), estimated that 407.9 million Indians were gainfully employed at the end of 2017, with the number plummeting to 397 million at the end of December 2018.

A closer look at the data reveals that the neediest were the worst hit, with most jobs lost among the rural sector, women and those in manual labour. Women alone lost over eight million jobs in the year. The only age group that did not lose any jobs is the 40 to 59 years old age group, despite some 3.7 million salaried employees losing their jobs. Evidentially, the ones who lost their jobs in the organised, salaried sector, are those who are either new entrants or are in the middle of their careers.

The NSSO survey data pointed out that the unemployment rate for skilled persons in the country had doubled to 12.4 percent in 2017-18 from 5.9 percent in 2011-12. Breaking it across skill levels further exposes the horrible job crisis Indian youth are facing: those with undergraduate and above degrees have the maximum unemployment rate of 13.2 percent, while those with a secondary level education followed closely with 10.6 percent.

The same is reaffirmed by the annual State of Working India (SWI) report by the Centre for Sustainable Employment, a research centre of the Azim Premji University. The SWI report for 2018 puts the unemployment rate among the youth at a whopping 16 percent. The report also notes that even for the employed, the quality of employment has come drastically down with 82% of men and 92% of women earning less than Rs 10,000 per month.

The report reveals more details, highlighting the fact that the growth in India’s Gross Domestic Product is not, in fact, translating into growth in jobs, as the government keeps trumpeting, with the correlation being lower than one percent. A 10 percent increase in the GDP is not translating into even one percent increase in employment, grimly notes the report. It seems that India is witnessing a jobless economic growth.

India has, therefore, earned the dubious distinction of having the highest youth inactivity among emerging and developing economies; the International Monetary Fund’s senior economist John Bluedorn estimated it to be as high as 30 percent.

It is apparent that India is sitting on a landmine of unemployment; a crisis affecting 9,559,000 unemployed Indians, who are actively seeking but not finding jobs. That is as big a disaster for an economy as it can get. The authorities should immediately address this crisis before it sinks the whole economy.

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About the Author: Mr. Avinash Pandey, alias Samar is Programme Coordinator, Right to
Food Programme, AHRC. He can be contacted at

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-003-2019
Countries : India,
Issues : Democracy, Impunity, Institutional reform, Labour rights,