Latest available PLFS data sheds light on unpaid helpers in self-employment & underemployment among various types of workers

Latest available PLFS data sheds light on unpaid helpers in self-employment & underemployment among various types of workers

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published Published on Sep 2, 2021   modified Modified on Sep 3, 2021


Generally, economists refer to indicators like Worker Population Ratio (WPR), Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) and Unemployment Rate (UR) in order to assess the extent of joblessness and work related precarity at a particular period of time in a certain geographical area. However, there are other indicators too, which can help in understanding the job situation, livelihoods security and vulnerability of workers in a better way such as 'percentage distribution of persons working by broad status in employment (as per Current Weekly Status/ Usual Status)', 'percentage distribution of persons in labour force in Current Weekly Status (CWS) by the number of days unemployed in a week' and 'percentage distribution of workers in CWS by the number of hours actually worked in a week', to name but a few. If we look at the data trends based on these indicators, then we may not find a rosy picture about job creation and employment in 2019-20 vis-à-vis the two years previous to it. 

The annual report related to the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) provides data on all the above-mentioned indicators. The 3rd PLFS Annual Report (July 2019-June 2020), released in July 2021, which has been prepared by the National Statistical Office (NSO), is considered by labour economists to be important with respect to providing useful insights on the status of joblessness and livelihood insecurity in the country during the period of 2020 nationwide lockdown. It is because the recently released annual report on PLFS covers the period from July 2019 to June 2020. So, the employment-unemployment distress situation during the period of countrywide lockdown (comprising about 69 days) is captured by the newly released report.   

Percentage distribution of persons working according to CWS by broad status in employment 

From the annual report on PLFS 2019-20, one gets that the workers (rural, urban and rural+urban) in CWS have been classified into three broad categories as per their status in employment. These broad categories are: (i) self-employed; (ii) regular wage/ salaried employee; and (iii) casual labour. Within the category of 'all self-employed', two sub-categories are made i.e. 'own account worker and all employer' -- combined together, and 'unpaid helper in household enterprise'. In chart-1, the distribution of workers in CWS by status in employment are presented. Self-employed persons who did not work either due to sickness or due to other reasons though they had self-employment work are included under the category 'all self-employed (male/ female/ person in rural/ urban/ rural+urban areas)'. Thus, the estimates given under the category 'all self-employed (male/ female/ person in rural/ urban/ rural+urban areas)' will be more than the sum of the estimates under the categories 'own account worker, all employer' and 'unpaid helper in household enterprise'. We have calculated the percentage share of 'self-employed workers who had work in household enterprise but did not work due to sickness or other reasons'.  

Please click here to access the data related to chart-1 in the spreadsheet. Kindly click the dropdown menu of the interactive chart.  

It is seen from chart-1 that the percentage share of 'self-employed workers (i.e. rural+urban persons) who had work in household enterprise but did not work due to sickness or other reasons' at the national level fell from 1.4 percent to 1.2 percent between 2017-18 and 2018-19. However, this figure went up to 3.4 percent in 2019-20, which was higher than the level in 2017-18. A similar trend pertaining to the percentage share of 'self-employed workers who had work in household enterprise but did not work due to sickness or other reasons' is observed for 'rural female', 'rural persons', 'urban male', 'urban female', 'urban persons', 'rural+urban male' and 'rural+urban female'. Please consult chart-1 for details.  

The percentage share of 'unpaid helpers (i.e. rural+urban persons) in household enterprise (under self-employed)' according to CWS fell from 12.1 percent to 11.4 percent between 2017-18 and 2018-19. However, the related percentage share increased from 11.4 percent to 14.0 between 2018-19 and 2019-20 (which was higher than 12.1 percent in 2017-18), showing a rise in job related distress as compared to the pre-pandemic year, given that helpers did not receive any regular salary or wages in return for the work they performed. A similar trend pertaining to the percentage share of 'unpaid helper in household enterprise (under self-employed)' is observed for 'rural male', 'rural female', 'rural persons', 'rural+urban male' and 'rural+urban female'.   

At the national level, the percentage share of 'casual labourers' according to CWS has fallen steadily from 24.0 percent in 2017-18 to 23.1 in 2018-19, and further to 21.5 percent in 2019-20 for 'rural+urban persons'. A similar trend pertaining to the percentage share of 'casual labourers' is observed for 'rural male', 'rural female', 'rural persons', 'urban male', 'urban female', 'urban persons', 'rural+urban male' and 'rural+urban female'. 

The percentage share of 'regular wage/ salaried workers' according to CWS has risen between 2017-18 and 2018-19 but fell again to a level which was lower than that in 2017-18 for 'rural male', 'rural female', 'rural persons', and 'rural+urban female'. The percentage share of 'regular wage/ salaried workers' has increased steadily over the years between 2017-18 and 2019-20 for 'urban male' and 'urban persons'. 

According to the annual report on PLFS 2019-20, persons who operated their own farm or non-farm enterprises or were engaged independently in a profession or trade on own-account or with one or a few partners were deemed to be self-employed in household enterprises. The essential feature of the self-employed is that they have autonomy (decide how, where and when to produce) and economic independence (in respect of choice of market, scale of operation and finance) for carrying out their operation. The remuneration of the self-employed consists of a non-separable combination of two parts: a reward for their labour and profit of their enterprise. Self-employed persons who operated their enterprises on their own account or with one or a few partners and who, during the reference period, by and large, ran their enterprise without hiring any labour were considered as own-account workers. They could, however, have had unpaid helpers to assist them in the activity of the enterprise. Self-employed persons who worked on their own account or with one or a few partners and who, by and large, ran their enterprise by hiring labour were considered as employers. Self-employed persons who were engaged in their household enterprises, working full or part time and did not receive any regular salary or wages in return for the work performed were considered as helpers in household enterprises. They did not run the household enterprise on their own but assisted the concerned person living in the same household in running the household enterprise. 

Regular wage/ salaried employees were persons who worked in others’ farm or nonfarm enterprises (both household and non-household) and, in return, received salary or wages on a regular basis (i.e. not on the basis of daily or periodic renewal of work contract). This category included not only persons getting time wage but also persons receiving piece wage or salary and paid apprentices, both full time and part-time.

A person who was casually engaged in others’ farm or non-farm enterprises (both household and non-household) and, in return, received wages according to the terms of the daily or periodic work contract, was considered as a casual labourer.

The annual report on PLFS 2019-20 mentions that the current weekly activity status (CWS) of a person is the activity status obtained for a person during a reference period of 7 days preceding the date of survey. A person is considered working (or employed) if s/he worked for at least one hour on at least one day during the 7 days preceding the date of survey or if s/he had work for at least 1 hour on at least one day during the 7 days preceding the date of the survey but did not do the work. A person is considered 'seeking or available for work (or unemployed)' if during the reference week no economic activity was pursued by the person but s/he made efforts to get work or had been available for work for at least one hour on any day during the reference week. A person who had neither worked nor was available for work any time during the reference week, is considered to be engaged in non-economic activities (or not in the labour force). Having decided the broad current weekly activity status of a person on the basis of 'priority' criterion, the detailed current weekly activity status is again decided on the basis of 'major time' criterion if a person was pursuing multiple economic activities.

Percentage distribution of workers in Usual Status by status in employment during the first, second and third annual PLFS 

For the PLFS, activity status was collected for all the three reference periods i.e., last 365 days for usual status, using a reference period of 7 days preceding the date of the survey for current weekly status and each day of the reference week for current daily status. The Usual Principal Status of a person was determined by the PLFS as the status on which the person spent relatively long time (major time criterion) during the 365 days preceding the date of survey. Such persons might have also pursued, in addition to his/ her Usual Principal Status, some economic activity for 30 days or more during the reference period of 365 days preceding the date of survey. The status in which such economic activity was pursued during the reference period of 365 days preceding the date of survey was the Subsidiary Economic Activity Status of the person. According to Prof. Prabhat Patnaik, "[i]f a person is employed or seeking work for more than half the time (“majority time”) during the preceding 365 days before the date of the survey then his or her “usual status” is that he belongs to the labour force; but if the person does not succeed in getting work for more than half the time then he or she is considered “usual status unemployed”." He adds that "[a] further modification is made to this to make it less restrictive. All individuals who are outside of the labour force according to the above definition, or are unemployed, but have worked for not less than 30 days during the reference year are classified as “subsidiary status” workers. The total labour force then is defined as “Usual Status (Principal Status plus Subsidiary Status)” workers. Likewise, all unemployed according to the above criterion who have worked for not less than 30 days are considered to have been employed in a “subsidiary status” activity."   

The workers in Usual Status (ps+ss) are categorised into three broad categories according to their status in employment. These broad categories of status in employment of the workers are: (i) self-employed, (ii) regular wage/ salaried employee and (iii) casual labour. Within the category of self-employed, two sub-categories have been made as follows: (i) own account worker and employer and (ii) unpaid helper in household enterprises. The distribution of workers in usual status (ps+ss) by status in employment is provided in chart-2.

Unlike in the case of percentage share of self-employed person according to CWS, the percentage share of 'own account worker, all employer (under self-employed)' and percentage share of 'unpaid helper in household (hh) enterprise (under self-employed)' adds up to give the figures of percentage share of 'all self-employed' according to Usual Status. The readers should note that we have not done unit-level data analysis for this news alert. 

Please click here to access the data related to chart-2 in the spreadsheet. Kindly click the dropdown menu of the interactive chart.

Chart-2 shows that the percentage share of 'unpaid helpers (i.e. rural+urban persons) in household enterprise (under self-employed)' according to ‘Usual Status (ps+ss)’ fell from 13.6 percent to 13.3 percent between 2017-18 and 2018-19. However, the percentage share of 'unpaid helper (i.e. rural+urban persons) in household enterprise (under self-employed)' increased from 13.3 percent in 2018-19 to 15.9 percent in 2019-20 (which was higher than 13.6 percent in 2017-18), showing a rise in job distress in comparison to the pre-pandemic year. This is because helpers did not receive any regular salary or wages in return for the work they performed. A similar trend pertaining to the percentage share of 'unpaid helpers in household enterprise (under self-employed)' is observed for 'rural male', 'rural female', 'rural persons', 'urban female', 'rural+urban male' and 'rural+urban female'. Please see chart-2.   

At the national level, the percentage share of 'casual labourers' according to 'Usual Status (ps+ss)' has fallen steadily from 24.9 percent in 2017-18 to 24.1 in 2018-19, and further decreased to 23.6 percent in 2019-20 for 'rural+urban persons'. A similar trend pertaining to the percentage share of 'casual labourers' is observed for 'rural female', 'rural persons', 'urban male', 'urban persons', 'rural+urban male' and 'rural+urban female'. 

The percentage share of 'regular wage/ salaried workers' has risen between 2017-18 and 2018-19 but fell again to a level which was lower than that in 2017-18 for 'rural female', 'rural persons', and 'rural+urban female'. The percentage share of 'regular wage/ salaried workers' has increased steadily over the years between 2017-18 and 2019-20 for 'urban persons'.

Percentage distribution of workers in CWS by number of hours actually worked in a week

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many State Governments issued notifications for changing the labour laws, thus allowing extension of working hours from the currently mandated 8 hours per day to 12 hours per day. However, a press release issued by the Ministry of Labour & Employment dated 17th March, 2021 mentions that although the ministry received the draft Ordinances/ Bills from different State Governments through the Ministry of Home Affairs regarding amendment in the existing provisions of the Factories Act, 1948, including extension of working hours under the Factories Act, 1948, it did not agree to extend the working hours. It should be noted that the initial International Labour Convention adopted in 1919 had fixed working hours in industry to a maximum of 8 hours per day and 48 hours per week, with certain clearly defined exceptions. Apart from that, the ILO Convention (No. 30) adopted in 1930 had established similar rules for the sectors pertaining to commerce and offices. The other ILO Conventions later completed the international framework on the regulation of working time, guaranteeing workers at least one rest day per week and paid annual leave.  

Against the above-mentioned background on working hours, it is essential to look at the trends in percentage distribution of workers (according to CWS) by the number of hours actually worked in a week. At the outset, it should be kept in mind that a rise in the proportion of workers who worked for '0<hours≤12', '12<hours≤24' and '24<hours≤36' hours in a week signifies an increase in the degree of underemployment. On the contrary, a hike in the proportion of workers who worked for '60<hours≤72', '72<hours≤84' and 'more than 84' hours per week indicates an increase in the degree of overwork.

Please click here to access the data related to chart-3 in the spreadsheet. Kindly click the dropdown menu of the interactive chart.

Chart-3 shows that the percentage share of workers (rural+urban persons) who worked for 'more than 72 hours but less than or equal to 84 hours' (i.e. 72<hours≤84) a week fell from 4.1 percent in April-June 2018 to 1.7 percent in April-June 2019, and further decreased to 1.2 percent in April-2020 (i.e. the period which coincided with the national lockdown period). A similar trend is also seen for such workers (rural+urban persons) who worked for '48<hours≤60' hours per week and '60<hours≤72' hours per week. The percentage share of workers (rural+urban persons) who worked for '48<hours≤60' hours a week came down from 37.8 percent in October-December 2019 to 35.9 percent in January-March 2020, and further fell to 31.5 percent in April-June 2020. However, there is a rising trend observed in terms of the percentage share of workers (rural+urban persons) who worked for '60<hours≤72' and '72<hours≤84' hours a week consecutively over the quarters between July-September 2019 and January-March 2020. The percentage share of workers (rural+urban persons) who worked for '0<hours≤12', '12<hours≤24' and '24<hours≤36' hours a week increased between April-June 2018 and April-June 2019, and further rose between April-June 2019 and April-June 2020. The percentage share of workers (rural+urban persons) who worked for '36<hours≤48' hours per week increased from 14.1 percent to 29.0 percent between April-June 2018 and April-June 2019. However, the percentage share of workers (rural+urban persons) who worked for '36<hours≤48' hours per week fell to 28.4 in April-June 2020. One can also notice that the percentage share of workers (rural+urban persons) who worked for '36<hours≤48' decreased from 27.4 percent in October-December 2019 to 24.4 percent in January-March 2020.  

The percentage share of 'rural+urban male workers' who worked for '48<hours≤60', '60<hours≤72' and '72<hours≤84' per week went down between April-June 2018 and April-June 2019, and fell further between April-June 2019 and April-June 2020. The percentage share of 'rural+urban male workers' who worked for '0<hours≤12', '12<hours≤24' and '24<hours≤36' hours per week increased between April-June 2018 and April-June 2019 and further went up from April-June 2019 to April-June 2020. The percentage share of 'rural+urban male workers' who worked for '36<hours≤48' hours per week climbed up from 12.4 percent to 29.1 percent between April-June 2018 and April-June 2019 but fell to 28.5 percent in April-June 2020. The percentage share of 'rural+urban male workers' who worked for '36<hours≤48' hours per week went down consecutively over the quarters between April-June 2019 and January-March 2020.      

The percentage share of 'rural+urban female workers' who worked for '0<hours≤12'and '12<hours≤24' hours per week increased between April-June 2018 and April-June 2019, and further went up between April-June 2019 and April-June 2020. On the contrary, the percentage share of 'rural+urban female workers' who worked for '48<hours≤60'and '60<hours≤72' hours per week decreased between April-June 2018 and April-June 2019, and again further fell between April-June 2019 and the corresponding period of 2020.

The percentage share of 'rural male workers' who worked for '12<hours≤24' and '24<hours≤36' hours a week increased between April-June 2018 and April-June 2019, and further climbed up between April-June 2019 and April-June 2020. The percentage share of 'rural male workers' who worked for '48<hours≤60', '60<hours≤72' and '72<hours≤84' hours a week fell between April-June 2018 and April-June 2019, and went down further between April-June 2019 and April-June 2020. The percentage share of 'rural male workers' who worked for '48<hours≤60' and '72<hours≤84' hours a week fell between October-December 2019 and January-March 2020. 

The percentage share of 'rural female workers' who worked for '12<hours≤24' hours a week increased between April-June 2018 and April-June 2019, and again rose further between April-June 2019 and April-June 2020. The percentage share of 'rural female workers' who worked for '0<hours≤12' hours a week fell from 3.9 percent in April-June 2019 to 3.6 percent in April-June 2020. The percentage share of 'rural female workers' who worked for '48<hours≤60' and '60<hours≤72' hours a week decreased between April-June 2018 and April-June 2019, and further fell between April-June 2019 and April-June 2020.  

The percentage share of 'rural persons' who worked for '48<hours≤60' and '60<hours≤72' hours per week reduced between April-June 2018 and April-June 2019, and came down further between April-June 2019 and April-June 2020. The percentage share of 'rural persons' who worked for '12<hours≤24', '24<hours≤36' and '36<hours≤48' hours a week went up between April-June 2018 and April-June 2019, and again rose between April-June 2019 and April-June 2020.

The percentage share of 'urban male workers' who worked for '0<hours≤12', '12<hours≤24' and '24<hours≤36' hours per week increased between April-June 2018 and April-June 2019, and further went up between April-June 2019 and April-June 2020. The percentage share of 'urban male workers' who worked for '48<hours≤60' and '60<hours≤72' hours per week fell between April-June 2018 and April-June 2019, and further decreased between April-June 2019 and April-June 2020.

The percentage share of 'urban female workers' who worked for '0<hours≤12', '12<hours≤24' and '24<hours≤36' hours per week went up between April-June 2018 and April-June 2019, and further climbed up between April-June 2019 and April-June 2020. The percentage share of 'urban female workers' who worked for '48<hours≤60' and '60<hours≤72' hours a week decreased between April-June 2018 and April-June 2019, and further fell between April-June 2019 and April-June 2020. The percentage share of 'urban female workers' who worked for '36<hours≤48' hours a week decreased from 39.2 percent to 34.0 percent between April-June 2019 and April-June 2020. The percentage share of 'urban female workers' who worked for '36<hours≤48' hours a week decreased consecutively over the quarters between April-June 2019 and January-March 2020.

The percentage share of 'urban persons' who worked for '0<hours≤12', '12<hours≤24' and '24<hours≤36' hours per week went up between April-June 2018 and April-June 2019, and further rose between April-June 2019 and April-June 2020. The percentage share of 'urban persons' who worked for '48<hours≤60', '60<hours≤72' and '72<hours≤84' hours a week fell between April-June 2018 and April-June 2019, and further went down between April-June 2019 and April-June 2020. The percentage share of 'urban persons' who worked for '36<hours≤48' hours a week decreased from 33.8 percent to 32.7 percent between April-June 2019 and April-June 2020. The percentage share of 'urban persons' who worked for '36<hours≤48' hours a week decreased consecutively over the quarters between April-June 2019 and January-March 2020.  

Percentage distribution of persons in labour force in CWS by number of days unemployed in a week

Chart-4 indicates that the percentage share of workers (rural+urban persons) who were unemployed for zero number of days in a week fell from 84.7 percent in October-December 2019 to 83.6 percent in January-March 2020, and further decreased to 78.2 percent in April-June 2020. A similar trend is noticed for workers (rural+urban persons) who were unemployed for one day in a week, two days in a week, and three days in a week. On the contrary, the percentage share of workers (rural+urban persons) who were unemployed for seven days in a week increased from 6.5 percent in October-December 2019 to 7.6 percent in January-March 2020, and further climbed up to 14.7 percent in April-June 2020. A similar trend is seen for workers (rural+urban persons) who were unemployed for four days in a week.  

Please click here to access the data related to chart-4 in the spreadsheet. Kindly click the dropdown menu of the interactive chart.

The percentage share of 'rural+urban male workers' who were unemployed for zero number of days in a week came down from 84.0 percent in October-December 2019 to 83.1 percent in January-March 2020, and further fell to 77.2 percent in April-June 2020. A similar trend is detected for 'rural+urban male workers' who were unemployed for one day in a week and three days in a week. As opposed to that, the percentage share of 'rural+urban male workers' who were unemployed for seven days in a week increased from 7.0 percent in October-December 2019 to 7.9 percent in January-March 2020, and further went up to 15.7 percent in April-June 2020. 

The percentage share of 'rural+urban female workers' who were unemployed for zero number of days in a week reduced from 86.7 percent in October-December 2019 to 85.1 percent in January-March 2020, and further fell to 81.3 percent in April-June 2020. A similar trend is detected for 'rural+urban female workers' who were unemployed for two days in a week and six days in a week. However, the percentage share of 'rural+urban female workers' who were unemployed for seven days in a week increased from 5.2 percent in October-December 2019 to 6.5 percent in January-March 2020, and further climbed up to 11.5 percent in April-June 2020. A similar trend is noted for 'rural+urban female workers' who were unemployed for four days in a week and five days in a week. 

The percentage share of 'rural male workers' who were unemployed for zero number of days in a week decreased from 83.0 percent in October-December 2019 to 82.1 percent in January-March 2020, and further came down to 77.8 percent in April-June 2020. A similar trend is detected for 'rural male workers' who were unemployed for three days in a week. However, the percentage share of 'rural male workers' who were unemployed for seven days in a week rose from 6.8 percent in October-December 2019 to 7.6 percent in January-March 2020, and further went up to 13.6 percent in April-June 2020. A similar trend is noted for 'rural male workers' who were unemployed for four days in a week.

The percentage share of 'rural female workers' who were unemployed for zero number of days in a week fell from 86.7 percent in October-December 2019 to 84.8 percent in January-March 2020, and further went down to 82.9 percent in April-June 2020. As opposed to that, the percentage share of 'rural female workers' who were unemployed for seven days in a week rose from 3.8 percent in October-December 2019 to 5.1 percent in January-March 2020, and further went up to 8.1 percent in April-June 2020. A similar trend is noted for 'rural female workers' who were unemployed for four days in a week.

The percentage share of 'rural persons' who were unemployed for zero number of days in a week decreased from 84.1 percent in October-December 2019 to 82.9 percent in January-March 2020, and further reduced to 79.1 percent in April-June 2020. A similar trend is detected for 'rural persons' who were unemployed for one day in a week and three days in a week. On the contrary, the percentage share of 'rural persons' who were unemployed for seven days in a week rose from 6.0 percent in October-December 2019 to 6.9 percent in January-March 2020, and further climbed up to 12.2 percent in April-June 2020. A similar trend is observed for 'rural persons' who were unemployed for four days in a week.

The percentage share of 'urban male workers' who were unemployed for zero number of days in a week decreased from 86.1 percent in October-December 2019 to 85.2 percent in January-March 2020, and further fell to 75.9 percent in April-June 2020. A similar trend is found for 'urban male workers' who were unemployed for one day in a week and three days in a week. On the contrary, the percentage share of 'urban male workers' who were unemployed for seven days in a week increased from 7.3 percent in October-December 2019 to 8.7 percent in January-March 2020, and further went up to 20.7 percent in April-June 2020. 

The percentage share of 'urban female workers' who were unemployed for zero number of days in a week reduced from 86.5 percent in October-December 2019 to 85.9 percent in January-March 2020, and further fell to 76.7 percent in April-June 2020. A similar trend is found for 'urban female workers' who were unemployed for two days in a week. On the contrary, the percentage share of 'urban female workers' who were unemployed for seven days in a week increased from 9.8 percent in October-December 2019 to 10.5 percent in January-March 2020, and further went up to 21.1 percent in April-June 2020. 

The percentage share of 'urban persons' who were unemployed for zero number of days in a week reduced from 86.2 percent in October-December 2019 to 85.4 percent in January-March 2020, and further decreased to 76.1 percent in April-June 2020. A similar trend is found for 'urban persons' who were unemployed for a single day in a week, two days in a week and three days in a week. On the contrary, the percentage share of 'urban persons' who were unemployed for seven days in a week increased from 7.8 percent in October-December 2019 to 9.1 percent in January-March 2020, and further climbed up to 20.8 percent in April-June 2020.

Quality of public data collection and dissemination

One should note here that the draft Report of the Task Force on Improving Employment Data (2017), which was prepared by the NITI Aayog, had mentioned that the National Sample Survey Office's (NSSO) Employment-Unemployment Survey (EUS) would be replaced by the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS). The EUS of the NSSO was once considered to be the most comprehensive survey providing labour force statistics in the country. It was first conducted during the 9th round of the National Sample Survey (NSS) in the year 1955. The prevalent format of quinquennial surveys conducted by the NSSO that started in the 27th round in the year 1972-73 was based on the recommendations of the ML Dantwala committee report. Since then, eight quinquennial surveys were undertaken with the last one happening in the year 2011-12. The EUS survey was carried out over an entire year to account for the seasonal variation in employment. According to the draft Report of the Task Force on Improving Employment Data (2017), "[t]he NSSO has started an exercise named the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) that will provide annual estimates of labour force, employment, unemployment, industry structure of workforce, nature of employment and wages nationally and regionally on an annual basis. The survey will also generate the estimates for urban areas on a quarterly basis. Households in urban areas will be visited about four times, constituting a rolling panel for 3 quarters. This will facilitate the tracking of seasonal employment and changes in employment characteristics over time. The fieldwork for this survey is already underway, having commenced on April 1, 2017. The Task Force is of the view that this survey will go a long way towards fulfilling the current vacuum in the availability of information relating to India’s labour markets. The PLFS replaces the NSSO’s Employment-Unemployment."  

On the recommendations of the Task Force on Employment, the Annual Employment-Unemployment Surveys (EUS) conducted by the Labour Bureau -- another survey besides the NSSO’s quinquennial EUS -- was also discontinued. This was informed by the Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Labour and Employment Shri Santosh Kumar Gangwar to the Parliament while replying (on 5th March, 2018) to an unstarred question (no. 1588) by Smt. Kamla Devi Paatle. The draft Report of the Task Force on Improving Employment Data (2017) had also criticised the Quarterly Enterprise Surveys (QES), which were conducted by the Labour Bureau, in order to measure employment in the eight broad sectors of industry and services. The Quarterly Enterprise Surveys (QES) suffered from limited coverage, lack of representativeness, having outdated sample frame, and changes in coverage methodology, according to the draft Report of the Task Force. Please click here and here to know more about the Labour Bureau's QES.  

So, besides the CMIE data, economists currently rely on the annual PLFS reports and the quarterly PLFS reports to get insights on the employment-unemployment situation in the short-run. 

Experts like Jean Drèze have suggested that the Government should repair the present public statistical system, which is in bad shape with the discontinuation of various surveys used to be earlier conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) and other agencies. The Government should restore the collection as well as the communication of public data. There is ample evidence (please click here and here to access) to indicate that the field investigators are nowadays employed on a contractual basis by the NSO for a short duration of time, and subcontracting of statistical data collection to private agencies is increasingly taking place, which many have alleged, is affecting the quality of data being collected. Experts insist that data collection should be considered as a priority area by the Government, and therefore, it should avoid short-term contractual appointments. More employment opportunities need to be created to employ a sufficient number of regular data collection staff. In order to enhance its autonomy, the NSSO should be placed directly under the National Statistical Commission (NSC) with more legal teeth to the NSC. Data collectors should become part of the present Subordinate Statistical Service and the latter should be renamed as Supporting Statistical Service (SSS).  


References

Third Periodic Labour Force Survey Annual Report (July 2019-June 2020), released in July 2021, National Statistical Office (NSO), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI), please click here to access  

Second Periodic Labour Force Survey Annual Report (July 2018-June 2019), released in June 2020, National Statistical Office (NSO), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI), please click here to access  

First Periodic Labour Force Survey Annual Report (July 2017-June 2018), released in May 2019, National Statistical Office (NSO), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI), please click here to access  

Press release: Changes in Working Hour, released on 17th March, 2021, Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Labour & Employment, please click here and here to access  

Draft Report of the Task Force on Improving Employment Data (2017), NITI Aayog, please click here to access  

Reply to unstarred question no. 1588, dated 5th March, 2018, Lok Sabha, please click here to access

93rd International Labour Conference Working hours around the world: balancing flexibility and protection, ILO, 13th June, 2005, please click here to access  

Quarterly Reports on Effect of Economic Slowdown on Employment in India (2008 - 2015), Labour Bureau,please click here to access

PLFS data: What the numbers hide -Arup Mitra and Puneet Kumar Shrivastav, The Hindu Business Line, 25 August, 2021, please click here to access  

What’s behind the ‘improvement’ in employment situation in labour force survey report -PC Mohanan, ThePrint.in, 21 August, 2021,please click here to access

Do PLFS numbers underestimate the pain of lockdown? -Ishan Anand and Anjana Thampi, Hindustan Times, 18 August, 2021, please click here to access  

The grim reality hidden by recent decline in unemployment rates -Radhicka Kapoor, The Indian Express, 9 August, 2021, please click here to access  

An urban job guarantee scheme is the need of the hour -CP Chandrashekhar and Jayati Ghosh, The Hindu Business Line, 9 August, 2021, please click here to access   

A disconcerting picture behind the headline numbers -Ishan Anand, The Hindu, 3 August, 2021, please click here to access   

Labour pangs, The Telegraph, 2 August, 2021, please click here to access   

How the pandemic and lockdown disrupted labour markets -Abhishek Jha and Roshan Kishore, Hindustan Times, 27 July, 2021, please click here to access  

ExplainSpeaking: The curious case of India’s falling unemployment rate in 2019-20 -Udit Misra, The Indian Express, 26 July, 2021, please click here to access

CNBC-TV18 programme on NSO's PLFS data, please click here to access   

YouTube video: Public Data and Public Policy: Launch of 'India Working in Numbers', Centre for Sustainable Employment at Azim Premji University, released on 20th July, 2021, please click here to access  

6 States Order Longer Shifts For Workers Post Coronavirus Lockdown -Sreenivasan Jain, NDTV, 1 May, 2020, please click here to access 

May Day: 12-hour working day notifications -Jane Cox, The Leaflet.in, 30 April, 2020, please click here to access

How India can improve quality of data collection -Sunil K Sinha, Rediff.com, 22 January, 2020, please click here to access  

The Dramatic Increase in the Unemployment Rate -Prabhat Patnaik, Newsclick.in, 14 June, 2019, please click here to access  

 
Image Courtesy: Himanshu Joshi



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