PM Narendra Modi will oversee a review of job creation and data collection on employment on Sunday in an exercise that is intended to frame a policy response to criticism that GDP growth has not translated into higher employment.
The charge of “jobless growth” had dogged the previous UPA government as well and the Modi government is keen to examine both employment avenues and data generation. The meeting comes at a time when top policy-makers feel there is a lack of credible and timely job data that makes it difficult to assess job creation.
Job creation was an essential element of BJP’s poll pitch in 2014 and the government is keen to address the issue well before the next national election. The concern is that unless the issue is clarified and job creation and employment clearly authenticated, the issue will become an Achilles heel for the ruling party. The official data is seen to suffer from some shortcomings in terms of the sectors it covers, its mapping of the informal economy and whether there is a sufficient distinction between jobs and self-employment.
A government source said Niti Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya is going to make a presentation to PM Modi on employment data. He is heading a task force set up by the government to assess the creation of jobs based on credible data and the panel has been mandated to formulate a methodology for timely and reliable statistics.
Recently, Niti Aayog rejected the jobless growth criticism, arguing India has no credible job data to allow such conclusions. Panagariya said India will soon have new job data that should be able to help policy-makers get a better sense of the employment scenario.
The Niti Aayog has said the current set of data has serious flaws. “In my sense, the debate on jobs has happened in the vacuum as some data are being referred to, and these are coming from the quarterly employment scenario reports the Labour Bureau does. There are very serious problems with these surveys,” Panagariya has said. The Niti Aayog has argued that the findings of the labour survey can’t be extrapolated to say that jobs haven’t been created in the economy as the data is inadequate.
The government think tank has argued that a wide-ranging survey is needed. “Some information can be extracted from the EPFO, ESI data. We are working on that now,” said Panagariya.
The Niti Aayog has been pushing for a promotion of labour-intensive industries such as food processing, electronic assembly, leather products and textiles can flourish. It has also suggested special economic zones push employment and attract domestic and foreign industry.