India is facing a crisis of both quantity and quality of employment. Despite lack of recent official statistics, it seems clear, both from private data sources such as the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE) as well as the leaked Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) report of the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), that the rate of open unemployment has steadily risen over the past few years.
- As per the PLFS 2017-2018, open unemployment stands at a historic high of 6.1 per cent, and unemployment among educated youth has reached 20 per cent.
- Unemployment in urban areas at 7.8 per cent is higher than the unemployment rate in rural areas (5.3 per cent).
- In addition, Indian towns and cities continue to be plagued by the prevalence of low wage, poor quality, informal work.
- India has a history of urban employment schemes. One of the most prominent Central programmes in this regard was the Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana (SJSRY) launched in 1997 which provided employment to the unemployed and underemployed urban poor through self employment and wage employment.
- The Urban Wage Employment Programme component of SJSRY covered those living below the poverty line in ULBs with less than five lakh population. The SJSRY was replaced by the National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM) in 2013.
Need for urban renewal –
- PLFS data show that despite a rise in the prevalence of regular-salaried work, just over 50 per cent of the urban workforce remains either self-employed or in casual wage work.
- At the same time that our towns and cities are facing a crisis of jobs, there is also a crisis of the quality of life due to ecological stress and lack of adequate public services.
- Centrally funded programmes like the Smart Cities Mission and Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) have disproportionately focussed on development of bigger towns and cities. Hence, it is important to refocus our attention to improving the livelihoods and ecology of urban areas beyond India’s major cities.
- Urban Local Bodies (ULBs), which are largely responsible for developing and administering our towns and cities, find themselves unable to carry out their core tasks adequately due to lack of financial as well as human resources.
How urban recreation will benefit?
Creating jobs, improving the capacity of urban local governance, and supplying quality public goods and services require serious public investment. But if made to an adequate extent, such investment has the potential to pay for itself many times over. Not only does it directly improve welfare by raising incomes and creating assets, there are many positive spillover effects too, such as:
- It increases demand by raising incomes directly, and indirectly in the informal sector, by improving the fallback position of workers.
- It provides a better trained workforce to the private sector by allowing educated young workers to acquire skills and improve their employability.
- The work undertaken will create assets that improve the town’s ecology and quality of public services, which have a direct impact on productivity and quality of life.
- It creates a shared sense of public goods in which every resident has a stake.
Way forward –
- An employment guarantee programme strengthens the ‘Right to Life’ enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
- Employment guarantee schemes are generally self-targeting and demand-driven. In a country like India with scarce income data, an employment guarantee programme circumvents the complicated process of identifying beneficiaries.
- Employment guarantee will enable people to contribute productively to the creation of useful public goods and services.
An employment guarantee has the potential to foster active citizenry. It enhances engagement in democratic decision making through public meetings and public hearings. On the one hand, it would increase people’s political capacities in community building and on the other it strengthens local accountability.
Source – The Hindu Business Line
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