With unemployment figures making rounds in the national media since a year and the covert attempts of the government to bury the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) reports on employment scenario, it was speculated that India is heading towards a major job crisis. According to a report published in The Indian Express on 21st March 2019, the leaked NSSO revealed that India’s national workforce shrunk by 4.7 crores since 2011-2012-more than the population of Saudi Arabia. The data showed an employment loss of 4.3 crores. NSSO’s Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) 2017-18 reported a 6.1 per cent unemployment rate, a sharp jump from 2.2 per cent reported in 2011-12. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy puts the number at 7.2 per cent.
These figures emphasize that there are fewer job opportunities available and unemployment is indeed posing the gravest challenge to the Indian economy today. Hence, it was clear that job creation would top the list of 2019 Lok Sabha election issues, particularly for the opposition parties who have repeatedly targeted the numbness of the government over the questions of unemployment. This article attempts to make a comparative analysis of the job creation promises in the manifesto of the two national parties, Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“Our pledge is jobs, jobs, jobs.” is the opening line of the INC's detailed plan of action which leads to an entire section dedicated to the promises of job creation and protecting existing jobs. The promises include filling of 4 lakh vacancies in the Central Government before March 2020, exempt new businesses from applicable laws and regulations (except Minimum Wages Act and tax laws) for a period of 3 years, encourage State government to fill their vacancies , reward businesses for creation, fiscal incentives to businesses for employing certain percentage of women, rewarding export-oriented industries, lower rates of corporate and personal income tax on tourism-related business income and offering opportunities to acquire the skill sets necessary for technology-related jobs.
The key promises that majorly focus on creating new jobs are:
1. Working with the State governments to create new Seva Mitra positions (estimated 10 lakh) in every Gram Panchayat and every Urban Local Body to ensure the effective delivery of government services to citizens. As of the year 2017, there are about 2, 55, 466 Gram Panchayats and 4, 657 urban local bodies in India. As for the citizens, a local governing body is a primary source of availing governmental services and the closest point of contact for resolving their matters concerning everyday life, there is a growing need for strengthening the local government bodies with a systemic deployment of staff according to the various positions in the local governing body.
For example, the government of Madhya Pradesh has developed five different staff grades, within which context it can appoint the requisite numbers of staff to carry out interdisciplinary tasks related to urban management. A similar approach is under consideration in several other states. The promise of creating around 10 lakh new Seva Mitra positions would result in employing around 3 to 4 persons in every local governing body. However, one of the challenges of this would be an increase of an estimated 766 crores on the government’s spending.
2. The INC will launch two major programmes to be implemented through Gram Sabhas and urban local bodies that will create 1 crore jobs:
a. Repair and restoration of water bodies (Water Bodies Restoration Mission)
b. Regeneration and afforestation of Wasteland and degraded land (Wasteland Regeneration Mission).
There have been a number of national-level programmes that focus on urban development like the Smart Cities Mission and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT); however, these schemes benefit only a fraction of local bodies. Insufficient funds and human capacity affect the smooth functioning of urban local bodies. Considering this, the plan of launching two major programmes focused on the restoring of water bodies and wasteland regeneration can create employment opportunities for urban informal workers with limited education. A similar plan of job creation through urban development was put forward by the Centre for Sustainable Development, Azim Premji Institute, that proposed a new set of “green jobs” which include creation, restoration/rejuvenation, and maintenance of urban commons such as green spaces and parks, forested or woody areas, degraded or wasteland, and water bodies (Idiculla, 2019).
Another notable feature of such a program that any government can take into consideration is the apprenticeship programme for unemployed youth with higher education who can sign up for a contiguous period of 5 months at 13,000 rupees a month to assist with administrative functions in local government offices , public health centres and for monitoring, or evaluation of environmental parameters. Such a project could cost between 1.7 per cent and 2.7 per cent of the GDP and can provide work opportunities to around 30-50 million workers (Idiculla, 2019). The NSSO data shows an employment loss of 0.4 crores (from 11.1 crores in 2011-12 to 10.7 crore in 2017-18) in the urban segment. Such developmental proposals implemented with concerted efforts of the state and devolution of responsibilities at the local level can certainly add to the measures in mitigating the job crisis.
3. Promote ‘Mass Entrepreneurship’ and support entrepreneurs to replicate tried and tested models of businesses in order to meet the growing demand for such goods and services. It is necessary to tap in the employment generation potential of skills based entrepreneurship. Future governments could leverage and build on the work the NDA government already did with Skills India (Das, 2019).
Tried and tested models is becoming easier because some non-governmental bodies such as deAsra Foundation are working on them- tailoring businesses, beauty parlour, food and beverage outlets etc. In partnership with government programmes, deAsra foundation has started a mass entrepreneurship movement through which job seekers can become job creators. The foundation has already supported nearly 9,300 businesses to date and hopes to reach 25,000 by 2020. Fostering such business models can be doable and is necessary for the grassroots revival of the economy and employment generation.
4. The INC promises to expand the ASHA programme and appoint a second ASHA worker in all villages with a population exceeding 2500 persons. Currently, there are around 877535 ASHAs working under the National Health Mission Program (NHM). Of these, around 60 per cent function in urban areas and the rest in villages with a population of 1000. According to a report in Express Health Care, ASHA workers face with issues related to low incentive payments, delay in payments, the release of funds and rates of attrition that impact the effective functioning of the ASHAs and demotivate the ASHA workers. They are victims of bureaucracy, corruption within the system and atrocities imposed by senior medical staff working in the government sector. Additionally, no adequate training is provided to the workers to equip themselves with the changes in the system.
While expanding the ASHA programme can potentially create new jobs, the current woes of the ASHA workers must be resolved to ensure that the additional ASHAs do not become redundant in the course of time due to system loopholes. The Congress manifesto does mention that the pending contentious issues regarding their salaries and work conditions would be addressed, however, it does not delve into the specifics of the process.
The BJP Manifesto states that the party “will make all efforts to ensure that our aspirational middle class has access to education, employment opportunities and suitable urban infrastructure for a better quality life.” The manifesto mentions the word, ‘jobs’ only twice and one can find the word, ‘employment’ dozen times, which is scattered in various sections of the document. A reading of these paragraphs suggest few ideas on job creation, however, the uncertainty of the promises is very well maintained in the manifesto.
On job creation, the party’s focus is mainly on the MSME sector, skill development, boosting infrastructural developments, tapping the 22 major champion sectors of the Indian economy mainly the defence and pharmaceutical sectors.
1. The Credit Guarantee Scheme of the BJP Government provides loan to the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). Under this, the credit of around Rs.19, 000 crores was achieved in 2017-18. The BJP aims to take this guaranteed credit to Rs.1, 00,000 crores by 2024. The MSME sector remains the highest job creator providing about 3.6 crore jobs, which is about 70 per cent in the manufacturing sector in 2017-2018 (Ray, 2019). According to NRI consulting, an affiliate of Nomura holdings, MSMEs have the potential to create around one crore jobs in the next 4-5 years. This requires an increase in the investment to the MSMEs and also a market-oriented approach with private sector participants for long term benefits. Several state governments have been taking steps towards enhancing the flow of bank funding to the MSME sector.
Technology access and upgradation are key elements in the MSME sector and the BJP promises to establish 150 new Technology Centres for technological upgradation and assistance to MSMEs. These Technology Centres would help in mentoring skilling and prototyping of MSMEs. They will expose the sector to Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Internet of Things, Virtual Reality, BlockChain technology and Zero Defect Zero Effect. The manifesto also states that under a new ‘Entrepreneurial North East’ scheme, the government would provide financial support to MSMEs for employment generation in North East. Given the significance of new enterprises in job creation, these promises of the BJP government if implemented, can prove to be one of the major steps in providing long term employment opportunities.
2. The Manifesto focuses on ‘Make in India in Defence’ to enable indigenous production of defence equipment that will generate employment and also encourage investment in the defence sector. A cursory glance at the major projects awarded over the past five years reveals two things: One, the chunkier orders have been bagged by foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs); and two, among Indian vendors, public sector units have bagged most of the projects. During the last three years and up to October 2018, 121 contracts have been signed with Indian vendors worth about Rs 73,918 crore; the multinationals bagged contracts of more than double this amount. About 67 contracts were signed with foreign vendors worth about Rs 1, 65,590 crores, data shared in the Lok Sabha states (Das G., 2019).
Moreover, since the announcement of ‘Make in India’ on August 15, 2015, there has been no visible evidence to suggest that manufacturing has gathered momentum. In a written reply to the Lok Sabha on the question of new jobs created since the launch of Make in India, the Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, CR Chaudhary stated that no such data is maintained centrally. With such unavailability of data, any future predictions of creating jobs through such programmes become contentious.
3. The BJP promises to set up 50,000 Van Dhan Vikas Kendras in tribal areas to ensure availability of primary processing and value addition for forest produce and to provide employment for tribals and increase tribal income. Van Dhan Mission is an initiative, launched in July 2018, for targeting livelihood generation for tribals by harnessing non-timber forest produces, the true wealth of forest i.e. Van Dhan with an estimated value of Rs 2 Lakh crore per year. The objectives of the scheme are significant and can result in creating employment opportunities for the tribals if implemented effectively.
An analysis of the manifestos with respect to job creation, it is evident that the INC manifesto has given a significant emphasis to the unemployment crisis in the country by laying out various measures in a much specific manner than the BJP. Moreover, while Congress’s promises emphasize more on creating jobs through local government bodies; the BJP weighs in more on the skill development, entrepreneurship and MSMEs for providing more employment opportunities. While ambiguity prevails in both the manifestos, the Indian National Congress has given a clearer picture to an extent in some of its promises.
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Image Credit: Asian Review
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