A man has to perform many roles in his life, the most crucial of which is that of an earning member. It is crucial not because a man spends approximately one-third of his lifetime performing this role but because it determines both his livelihood and status. It also enables an individual to support his family and fulfil his social obligations to society.
It makes possible for him to achieve power, too. If a person, with a capacity and potential to work, refuses to work or fails to obtain work, he not only does not gain any status in society but also comes to suffer from several emotional and social problems. His plight affects himself, his family, and the society too. No wonder, unemployment has been described as the most significant sociological problem in society.
Opportunity for employment then becomes imperative in all such cultures which claim to be democracies. Equal employment opportunity is a prerequisite for equal accessibility to achieved status. Attempts to deal with unemployment have hitherto been two-pronged: one, to alleviate the status of the unemployed, and two, to abolish unemployment itself. After independence, though the governments—both central and state—have taken the problem into their hands, they have remained ineffective in tackling this problem and in providing assistance to persons unable to support themselves. Unemployment is still viewed as an economic rather than a social phenomenon.
What is unemployment? If a man with a PhD degree works as a petty clerk in an office, he will not be considered an unemployed person. At most, he would be viewed as an ‘underemployed’ person. An unemployed person is “one who having potentialities and willingness to earn, is unable to find a remunerative work”.
Sociologically, it has been defined as “forced or involuntary separation from remunerative work of a member of the normal working force (that is, of 15-59 age group) during normal working time at normal wages and under normal conditions”. D ‘Mello (1969:24) has defined it as “a condition in which an individual is not in a state of remunerative occupation despite his desire to do so”. Naba Gopal Das has explained unemployment as “condition of involuntary idleness”.
The Planning Commission of India has described a person as ‘marginally unemployed’ when he/ she remains without work for six months in a year. Against this, the ILO considers that person as ’employed’ who remains with work for 15 hours (two days) in a week (of five days). This definition may be accepted in a developed country which provides social security to the unemployed but it cannot be accepted in a developing country like India which has no Unemployment Insurance Scheme.
Unemployment has three elements:
(i) An individual should be capable of working,
(ii) An individual should be willing to work, and
(iii) An individual must make an effort to find work.
On this basis, a person who is physically and/or mentally disabled, or who is chronically ill and unable to work, or a Sadhu who because of his status as an in charge of a Math, considers it below dignity to work, or a beggar who does not want to work, cannot be included in the definition of unemployed persons.
A society is believed to be in a “condition of full employment” if the period of enforced idleness remains minimum.
A society with full employment has four characteristics:
(i) An individual takes very little time to find remunerative work according to his capabilities and qualifications,
(ii) He is sure of finding remunerative work,
(iii) The number of vacant jobs in the society exceeds the number of job seekers, and
(iv) Work is available on ‘adequate remuneration’.
Though it is often repeated that there has been an alarming rise in unemployment in our country since Independence, the exact number of unemployed persons is not yet known, as no survey has been undertaken either by the Planning Commission or by the National Sample Survey (NSS), or the Central Statistical Organization (CSO) or the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI). The figures given are based only on estimates.
The estimates only take into consideration the number of persons registered in the employment exchanges and these employment exchanges cover mainly the urban areas. Registration with the employment exchanges being voluntary, not all the unemployed registers their names in the exchanges. Further, some of the registered persons are already employed but register again to seek better employment.
However, most of the social scientists are of the opinion that quite a large proportion of the working population is not regularly employed in our country and that these unemployed and underemployed people and their families are dependent upon their family members or kin even for their bare necessities.
While the number of unemployed persons in the country registered in the employment exchanges in 1952 was 4.37 lakh, in 1967 it increased to 27.40 lakh, in 1971 to 50.99 lakh, in 1976 to 93.26 lakh (Surya, January 1979:50-51), in 1981 to 178 lakh, in 1983 to 220 lakh, in 1985 to 263 lakh, in 1987 to 301 lakh, in 1990 to 334 lakh (India Today, May 31,1991:117), in 1993 to 362 lakh and in 1995 to 381 lakh (The Hindustan Times, March 19, 1997).
Using 1952 as an index of 100, the following unemployment index points out how unemployment has increased markedly in India after Independence.
Unemployment index (1952=100)
Thus, while between 1952 and 1971 or in a period of about 19 years, the number of registered unemployed persons in the country had increased 11.7 times, between 1971 and 1995, the number increased 7.5 times. If we take the population of the country in 1995 to be 930 million, we can say that about 4.1 per cent of the total people are unemployed in our country.
But this will be a wrong assessment because the numbers of people who are expected to be capable of working belong to the age group of 15-59 years. Since 498 million of the total population of 844 million in 1991 belonged to this (15-59) age group, assuming that same proportion of people (59%) belonged to this age group in 1995, we could claim that 6.8 per cent of the working people (37.2 million out of 548.7 million) are unemployed in India.
According to the statement given by the Minister of State for Planning in Parliament in March 1996, the number of unemployed people in the country up to August 1995 was estimated to be around 37.2 million (The Hindustan Times, March 19, 1996). This is not highly alarming and unnerving in comparison to many countries. In France, unemployment rate is 12 per cent of the labour force, in Ireland 16.9 per cent, in Spain 23 per cent, in East Germany 8.1 per cent, in West Germany 15.4 per cent, in Belgium 9.7 per cent, and in industrially advanced countries, it stands at 8.1 per cent (The Hindustan Times, March 24, 1994).
According to the Labour Ministry’s projections, there were to be as many as 54 million people unemployed at the end of the Eighth Five Year Plan (The Hindustan Times, May 10, 1995). According to the Union Labour Minister, more than 9 million additional employment opportunities per year will have to be generated to eventually meet the goal of reducing unemployment to ‘negligible levels’ by the year 2002, which is indeed a stupendous task (The Hindustan Times, November 17, 1994).
In May 1990, the highest number of persons registered in employment exchanges was in the state of West Bengal (4.63 million), followed by Bihar (3.16 million), Kerala (3.13 million), Uttar Pradesh (3.10 million), Tamil Nadu (3.05 million), Maharashtra (2.99 million), Andhra Pradesh (2.83 million), Madhya Pradesh (2.03 million), Karnataka (1.25 million), Assam (0.99 million), Gujarat (0.94 million), Rajasthan (0.93 million), Orissa (0.86 million), Delhi (0.80 million), Punjab (0.63 million), Chandigarh (0.20 million), Tripura (0.15 million), Jammu and Kashmir (0.11 million), Mizoram (0.08 million), Nagaland (0.04 million), and Meghalaya (0.02 million) (Rajasthan Patrika, October 15, 1990). In other words, more than half (51.1%) of the total unemployed persons live in three states of northern India (West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh) and two states of southern India (Kerala and Tamil Nadu).
Present Features of Unemployment in India:
Some features of unemployment in India have been identified as follows:
(1) The incidence of unemployment is much higher in urban areas than in rural areas.
(2) Unemployment rates for women are higher than those for men.
(3) The incidence of unemployment among the educated is much higher (about 12%) than overall unemployment (of 3.8%).
(4) There is greater unemployment in agricultural sector than in industrial and other major sectors.
(5) The growth of employment per annum is only about 2 per cent.
Unemployment in India is a social issue and unemployment records in India are kept by the Ministry of Labour and Employment of India.
Union Ministry for Labour and Employment claimed national unemployment hovers around 3.7 percent in 2015-16. However, the data is based on usual principal subsidiary status (UPSS) approach that requires only 30 days of work in a year to call the person employed. Seventy-seven percent of the families reportedly have no regular wage earner and more than 67 percent have income less than ₹10,000 per month. Around 58 percent of unemployed graduates and 62 percent of unemployed post graduates cited non-availability of jobs matching with education/skill and experience as the main reason for unemployment. As per the National Skill Development Mission Document, as much as 97 percent of the workforce in India has not undergone formal skill training. About 76 percent of the households did not benefit from employment generating schemes like MGNREGA, PMEGP, SGSY, SJSRY, etc.
A significant change in inequality in income and wealth is possible only in a longer term prospective. Employment structure of an economy is the normal instrument that can cause a change in inequality either way i.e. an increase or a decrease in inequality. Since the government functions within the administrative and fiscal constraints, the target group programmes normally have a marginal impact on income redistribution. Income of labour enables flow of resources across income classes of people and across the social and ethnic groups. Flows of income across locations are influenced both by assets available and modes of creating employment opportunities. However, income generated by employment of migrant labour, facilitates flow of resources across regions of a given regional distribution of capital assets. Employment and equity of income across classes of people and across regions are therefore, closely related to each other in the long term.
According to India Skills Report launched in the 3rd CII National Conference on Skill Development, 96 percent were found unemployable out of 100,000 candidates. The Report not only captured the skill levels of talent pool but also brought out the hiring estimates across major Industry sectors in the country. The report also brings out a general trend amongst the employers to look for skills rather than qualifications in candidates.According to NSS (66th Round) Report from Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India published on 2013
Steps taken by the Government
Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005
The Government of India has taken several steps to decrease the unemployment rates like launching the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme which guarantees a 100-day employment to an unemployed person in a year. It has implemented it in 200 of the districts and further will be expanded to 600 districts. In exchange for working under this scheme the person is paid 150 per day.
Apart from Employment Exchange, the Government of India publishes a weekly newspaper titled Employment News. It comes out every Saturday evening and gives detailed information about vacancies for government jobs across India. Along with the list of vacancies, it also has the notifications for various government exams and recruitment procedures for government jobs.
Steps taken on Disguised Unemployment
Agriculture is the most labour absorbing sector of the economy. In recent years, there has been a decline in the dependence of population on agriculture partly because of disguised unemployment. Some of the surplus labour in agriculture has moved to either secondary or the tertiary sector. In the secondary sector, small scale manufacturing is the most labour absorbing. In case of the tertiary sector, various new services are now appearing like biotechnology, information technology and so on. The government has taken steps in these sectors for the disguised unemployed people in these methods.
National Career Service Scheme
The Government of India has initiated National Career Service Scheme whereby a web portal named National Career Service Portal (www.ncs.gov.in) has been launched by the Ministry of Labour and Employment (India). Through this portal, job-seekers and employers can avail the facility of a common platform for seeking and updating job information. Not only private vacancies, contractual jobs available in the government sector are also available on the portal.