The country’s unemployment rate surged to over 6 per cent in 2017-18, the highest since 1972-73, according to the National Sample Survey Office’s (NSSO) periodic labour force survey (PLFS), said an official who was part of the deliberations for the survey’s approval in December.
The findings of the PLFS survey were first reported by Business Standard on Thursday.
The unemployment rate stood at 7.8 per cent in urban areas as compared with 5.3 per cent in rural areas, while the labour force participation rate, which is the proportion of the population working or seeking jobs, declined to 36.9 per cent in 2017-18 from 39.5 per cent in 2011-12, the report said.
The rate of joblessness among rural males in the age group 15-29 jumped more than three times to 17.4 per cent in 2017-18 compared to 5 per cent in 2011-12, while the unemployment rate of rural females in the same age bracket stood at 13.6 per cent compared to 4.8 per cent during the same time period.
The PLFS has replaced the annual employment survey, with the survey for 2016-17 is the first study under the new format. The PLFS aims to provide annual estimates of labour force, employment, unemployment, industry structure of the workforce, nature of employment and wages nationally and regionally on an annual basis.
The survey will also generate estimates for urban areas on a quarterly basis.
The fieldwork for the survey was launched in April 2017; then after much deliberation, the NSSO decided to shift to July-June reference period for the survey, the same as the quinquennial surveys done by NSSO.
Prior to this, the NSSO undertook employment-unemployment surveys once in five years. The last survey was released in 2011-12. The next survey should have been in 2016-17. The first annual survey undertaken by the NSSO for the year-ending June 2018 (July 2017-June 2018) would have covered both the pre-demonetisation and post-demonetisation period.
On Thursday, NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar said the quarterly employment data sets for the July-December 2018 period (two quarters) is still being processed and that the government will release the employment survey report by March “after collating quarter-on-quarter data”.
Kumar said employment data is seasonal and so the comparison of quarterly data has to be on a yearly basis, that is, data for October-December 2018 needs to be compared with October-December 2017 and that this new survey should not be compared with earlier versions of NSSO surveys.
Pronab Sen, the Country Director for the India Programme of the International Growth Centre and former Chief Statistician of India, said that though this is the baseline survey and going ahead, with the data for the second year (2018-19) would be comparable to the data for the first year (2017-18), the PLFS was designed in such a way that it’s structurally comparable with the old NSSO surveys.
“It’s a continuing survey. 2017-18 will form the base year. But it’s comparable with earlier employment surveys by NSSO,” he said.
Earlier this week, P C Mohanan, a career statistician, and J V Meenakshi, Professor at the Delhi School of Economics, resigned from NSC citing the delay in the release of the PLFS report as one of the reasons. They were appointed by the government as members of the NSC in June 2017 for a three-year term. While Mohanan was the Acting Chairperson before he resigned, Meenakshi quit as the Member NSC.
NSC is an autonomous body constituted in 2006 and tasked to monitor and review the functioning of the country’s statistical systems. After the resignations of these two, the Commission is left with two members.