Jobs data not finalised: Government after NSSO ‘Report’

NEW DELHI: The government brushed aside a leaked report that said India’s unemployment rate had surged to a four-decade record, saying that the data hadn’t been finalised and verified as it sought to quell speculation that the information had been suppressed ahead of general elections.

“The periodic labour force survey (PLFS) report of NSSO (National Sample Survey Office) is not yet finalised. It’s a draft report which has not been verified by the government,” Niti Aayog vice chairman Rajiv Kumar said at a press briefing. “We are waiting for six-quarter data in the absence of which we cannot do quarter-on-quarter comparison.”

Business Standard had reported on Thursday that the NSSO survey had shown that unemployment was at a 45-year high of 6.1% in FY18 compared with 2.2% in FY12.

Kumar said India’s economic growth figures were at odds with large-scale unemployment.

“Real-term GDP growth is over 7% while nominal growth is around 11-12%. Since credit offtake is not very robust, where has this growth come from,” Kumar said.

Processing of data is still on for the July-September and October-December quarters to determine the actual incremental change in the employment rate, he said.

The Niti Aayog is of the view that high growth cannot take place without a rise in employment as there has been a decline in private investment and no significant improvement in productivity.

The first periodic labour force survey (PLFS) by the NSSO had been expected to reflect job losses in the wake of demonetisation in November 2016.

Controversy struck after two members of the National Statistical Commission (NSC) — including the acting chairman — resigned earlier this week, suggesting that the report wasn’t being released despite its approval. The NSC is an autonomous body constituted in 2006 and tasked to monitor and review the functioning of the country’s statistical systems. Three months ago, the NSC had been snubbed by the Niti Aayog over finalisation of GDP back series data, which showed the current government’s record on growth was better than that of its predecessor, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

Kumar said the final PLFS report will be made public by March. On being asked if the commission would approve the report, he said: “I don’t know if the NSC has the final say.” He added: “Niti Aayog is not aware of the unemployment rate in the country.”

India’s former chief statistician Pronab Sen said the NSC should approve the report.

“The body which is empowered to take a call is the NSC. Then who will take a call now? NSSO submitted the report to NSC, which is the final decision-making body,” Sen said. “Who will reconsider it and on what basis? Will bureaucrats approve it or Niti Aayog and are they competent to do this? This report is no longer a draft because it has been approved at all levels and does not need any more approvals.”

Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said the suggestion that the government is trying to hide something was incorrect. There is plenty of evidence that jobs are being created but the problem, however, is the lack of quality employment, he said.

“We are creating 7-7.8 million jobs, which are enough for the new entrants into the country’s workforce. However, we also need to create jobs for people exiting low-productive jobs,” he said.

Kant said the latest numbers show that approximately seven million people are added to the country’s workforce every year compared with 12 m estimated earlier because of the decline in the female workforce and increasing number of people opting for higher education.

Kumar rejected comparisons between the unemployment rate under the current government and the UPA as the sample size and methodology were different.

“Survey in 2011-12 was a quinquennial survey done once in five years. PLFS will be done quarter-on-quarter for urban and annually for rural. Data collection method is also different now, we are using a computer-assisted personal interview in the new survey as against a manual process at that time,” Kumar said.

Citing a report by the McKinsey, Kant said a combination of increased government spending, additional IT hiring, and increase in entrepreneurship created employment for 20-26 million people between 2014 and 2017.

Separately, Niti said a study based on data collected by the SIAM and the Tractor and Mechanization Association showed over 14 m jobs have been created in the transport sector between 2014 and 2018.

Source: Economic Times

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