The government’s policy thinktank NITI Aayog does not know what is India’s current unemployment rate. “We do not know what the unemployment rate is,” Rajiv Kumar, Vice-Chairman of NITI Aayog, told reporters in a hurriedly called press conference here.
The press meet was to clarify the government’s position on job data which created a political storm early on Thursday following media reports that, according to a draft National Sample Survey (NSS) report, the unemployment rate was at a four-decade high.
Commenting on the data, Congress President Rahul Gandhi said it is time for the Narendra Modi government to go. “The Fuhrer promised us 2 Cr jobs a year. 5 years later, his leaked job creation report card reveals a National Disaster. Unemployment is at its highest in 45 yrs. 6.5 Cr youth are jobless in 2017-18 alone. Time for NoMo2Go,” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, Kumar said comparisons can’t be made on a quarterly basis, as too many seasonal factors are involved. For example, the sowing season quarter will see more job creation, while that around the monsoon will see some dip.
According to a media report, the NSS draft revealed that the unemployment rate was 6.1 per cent in 2017-18, post demonetisation. That was the highest since 1972-73, the period since when jobs data are comparable. The report further said the government had withheld the draft over which two members of the National Statistical Commission (NSC) resigned in protest on Tuesday. NSC acting chief PC Mohanan and his colleague J Meenakshi were unhappy over the non-publication of the job data that had been due for release in December last year. The data was held back apparently keeping in mind the approaching elections.
The findings of the periodic labour force survey report assumes significance as it is considered the first comprehensive survey on employment conducted by a government agency after the November 8, 2016, demonetisation decision.
According to the draft, joblessness was higher in urban areas, at 7.8 per cent, than rural ones, at 5.3 per cent. The joblessness rate among youth was at a significantly higher level in 2017-18 than the previous years and “much higher compared to that in the overall population,” the draft says.
Meanwhile, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant tried hard to explain that the comparison was not correct, as the sample size and economic situation in 2011-12 were vastly different. The survey conducted during that year showed an unemployment rate of 2.2 per cent. “Every year, 7-8 million jobs are created which are sufficient for new entrants. The real issue is, are there enough jobs for those who quit low productivity jobs and move out for higher aspiration?” he remarked.
When the economy is growing at over 7 per cent, one needs to see where this growth is coming from, added Kumar.