Urban employment as a focal point
- The contraction of the economy raises concern on the employment situation as the shrinking sectors are those that create the maximum new jobs.
- While the ‘Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan’ launched recently could be an immediate relief, the ₹50,000-crore employment scheme cannot be a substitute for decent urban jobs.
|About Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan
Economy and employment
- Recent data on the contraction of the economy raises concern on the employment situation in India.
- The shrinking sectors that have been affected the most — construction (–50%), trade, hotels and other services (–47%), manufacturing (–39%), and mining (–23%) are those that create the maximum new jobs in the economy.
- It would lead to either a growing number of people losing jobs or failing to get one, or even both which means there is a possibility of a decline in employment and a subsequent rise in unemployment.
- Vulnerable employment is characterised by inadequate earnings, low productivity and difficult conditions of work that undermine the basic rights of workers.
- They are more likely to be informally employed and lack effective representation by trade unions.
- According to the International Labour Organization, of the 535 million labour force in India in 2019, some 398.6 million will have poor quality jobs.
- The abrupt announcement of the lockdown exposed the severe vulnerabilities of urban low-end informal jobs as the share of vulnerable employment is higher in India than that of the world or the South Asia region.
Challenges to be addressed
- There are two challenges policy interventions in securing the livelihoods of workers in urban areas have to address:
- First, to generate more jobs
- Second, to reduce vulnerabilities by providing decent wages and some form of job security.
- The present crisis calls for a multi-pronged strategy to tackle the issue of urban jobs.
Coordination with local government
- Given the scale of urbanisation, the focus on urban employment generation programmes should be in coordination with local governments
- This will require actors at the local level to have more resources at their disposal.
- Resource mobilisation could be enabled by the formation of local alliances, involving elected representatives, trade unions, entrepreneurs and community groups
- This can also be the key to solving other problems faced by cities.
Implement employment-intensive investment policies
- A major local initiative would be to design and implement employment-intensive investment policies which should embrace the initiatives of both private entrepreneurs as well as by the government.
- Private investments need to be facilitated by conducive contractual relations between labour and capital.
- Enterprise formation needs to be an integral part of the strategy, with converging interests for workers and entrepreneurs on issues related to technology and productivity enhancement.
- Small and micro enterprises should be given extra support to balance the interests between labour and capital as neither have collective bargaining powers.
Prioritise urban infrastructure
- Urban infrastructure should be prioritised as it accounts for a large share of total investments in the local economy.
- A labour-intensive approach to building municipal infrastructure can be a cost-effective alternative to capital intensive-approach as wage rates are low.
- Infrastructure investments would spur employment, generate earnings and contribute to small enterprise formation.
- As per an ILO document, construction of low-cost housing is another activity that can be carried out using labour-intensive methods.
Launch of urban employment scheme
- An immediate launch of an urban employment scheme oriented toward building large-scale medical, health and sanitation infrastructure in cities and towns across India can be another step.
- MGNREGA can be expanded by both increasing the budgetary allocations and the guaranteed minimum number of days of work.
- Given the structure of the economy and demographic profile, it is important to focus on reducing the vulnerabilities of urban informal jobs in the long run.
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