Work is job: When asked about rising unemployment (a government report that’s been withheld says it’s at a 45-year high), Union minister Piyush Goyal replied: “We need to differentiate between job and work … ours is a government that has created self-employed, self-reliant individuals. We have to move out of the narrow definition of the job.” Webster dictionary defines a job as ‘a regular remunerative position’. Work, on the other hand, is probably anything that one does to earn a living.
Selling ‘work’ is easier: Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that a person earning Rs 200 a day by selling pakodas was also employed. In fact, that is the space (the informal sector) where 90% of India works. That is also space where most of the new jobs are being created. An estimated 56% of new employment in India is being generated by the gig economy companies (like food delivery firms Swiggy and Zomato and ride-hailing firms Uber and Ola) that need drivers and delivery boys but who have little job security and few benefits.
Getting a job is difficult: Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy‘s Consumer Pyramids Household Survey shows that the growth rate of jobs for the better educated has seen a sharp fall in recent years. Between 2016 and 2018, 38 million jobs were added for people who had completed only primary education (up to 5th standard), an increase of nearly 45% over these three years. Those with slightly better education (between 6th and 9th standard), saw an addition of 18 million jobs, a 26% increase. For those who had completed secondary-to-higher secondary education (10th, 11th or 12th class) 13 million jobs were created or just 12% growth over a three-year period. Graduates or post-graduates saw a growth of 2.9 million jobs, about 6% growth. Bottomline: More jobs are being created for the less educated than for the more qualified.
Job better than work? The World Bank in its draft World Development Report 2019 had said that in India the pay-offs in the formal sector are over twice that in the informal sector. “Since 1999, India has seen its IT sector boom, become a nuclear power, broken the world record for the number of satellites launched and achieved an annual growth rate of 5.6%. Yet, the size of its informal sector has remained around 91%,” the World Bank said.
That’s why polls ate up data on jobs? To counter the criticism that his government has not been able to create enough jobs, PM Modi had (in July 2018) said: “More than a lack of jobs, the issue is lack of data on jobs”. Yet, the government has been sitting on two sets of data on jobs prepared by its own departments — an assessment by the National Sample Survey Office conducted between July 2017-June 2018 that shows the current unemployment rate of 6.1% is the highest since 1972-73 and a survey on the number of jobs created under the Micro Units Development & Refinance Agency (Mudra) scheme conducted by the Labour Bureau. These data sets consider formal and informal sectors.
Jobs are about national security too: Former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan explains the link: “Our national security depends primarily on our economic strength. If we do not have strong job-creating economic growth in the coming years, we will suffer on multiple fronts. We will not have the resources to upgrade our military’s equipment. We will not have the economic clout that will persuade other nations to arrest our terrorists and extradite those who flee our laws. And we will have rising levels of internal political unrest as our unemployed youths start venting their frustration. One cannot have meaningful national security without strong job-creating economic growth.”