By Vritika Mathur
A recent report from the ILO estimates that 77% of the active workforce in India, not counting the unemployed, will be in vulnerable employment by 2019 despite economic growth.
What is the ILO?
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is a body working under the UN, since 1919. It deals with labour problems, particularly international labour standards, social protection and work opportunities for all. Its main aim is to set particular benchmarks and develop policies and programmes to help promote decent work for all men and women. It highlights the rights of the workers and initiates dialogue on any and all work-related issues. The ILO also registers complaints against entities violating international rules. However, it does not have the authority to impose sanctions on governments. Around 187 of the 193 member states of the UN are members of ILO. Some of the agency’s programmes are dedicated to providing statistics, training and teaching units, and initiating dialogues on preventing child labour.
Recent findings on this front
The Asia-Pacific region is expected to add 23 million jobs between 2017-19, aided by employment growth in South Asian nations, including India. However, despite reports of strong economic growth, a lot of the jobs created are of poor quality. According to ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook report released on Tuesday, around 77% of the worker population in India would have vulnerable employment by 2019. Vulnerable employment refers to a situation where there is little probability of formal work arrangements resulting in a lack of decent working conditions. According to World Bank, this already roughly affects 3 out of 4 workers in India. Worst still, despite the large proportion of jobs being created, most are still of poor quality and are expected to remain so.
“Projections indicate that 72% of workers in Southern Asia, 46% in South-Eastern Asia and the Pacific, and 31% in Eastern Asia will have vulnerable employment by 2019, showing very little change from 2017”, the ILO said. In India, the vulnerable employment levels are higher than those compared to other parts of the world or the South Asia region. The report says that of the 535 million estimated labour force in India in 2019, some 398.6 million will have poor quality jobs.
A bigger worry for India is while the overall unemployment rate hovers between 3.4% to 3.5% in 2017-19, the unemployment rate in the 15-24 age group is much higher—increasing further from 10% in 2014 to 10.7% in 2019. In 2017, the unemployment rate in the 15-24 age group was 10.5%. Due to such conditions, poverty remains at a high. The report says by 2019, India will have 18.9 million unemployed people or 9.76% of such population worldwide—an increase from 18.3 million in 2017.
Inferences from the Oxfam report
Oxfam is an NGO that focuses on the rights of people deprived of opportunities, choices, resources, knowledge and protection. It imbibes the values of both, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the Constitutional Rights, promised to every citizen of the country, to influence its functioning. It works to address the root causes of poverty and inequality. The Oxfam report, which was released hours before the annual Davos World Economic Forum (WEF) meet began argued that this year’s wealth of India’s richest 1% grew by over Rs 20.9 lakh crore during 2017—a little more than the total central budget last year. It further states that 67 crore Indians, comprising the population’s poorest half, saw their wealth rise by just 1% in 2017.
India continues to be no stranger to income inequality as its gap just widens further. Last year’s survey showed that India’s richest 1% held 58% of the country’s total wealth, which was higher than the global figure of about 50%. The situation appears even grimmer globally, where 82% of the wealth generated last year worldwide went to the 1%, while 3.7 billion people that account for the poorest half of population saw no increase in their wealth, the survey said. Oxfam’s report outlines the basic factors driving up rewards for shareholders and corporate bosses at the expense of workers’ pay and conditions. These include the erosion of workers’ rights; the excessive influence of big business over government policy-making; and the relentless corporate drive to minimise costs in order to maximise returns to shareholders.
How does this affect the country?
The concentration of wealth in the hands of only a few in India is alarming. With the country’s shocking wealth inequality, it is vital that steps be taken to ensure that its economy works for all and not just a select few. The part of the workforce working hard to build and improve on existing infrastructure, or provide the country with food is struggling with basic needs such as sufficient meals and medicine for their families. Further, vulnerable employment and labour productivity closely connect to a rise in poverty. In a country like India with a developing economy, workers who lose their jobs do not have access to social protection schemes. Thus, they avoid unemployment by taking up various forms of employment such as contributing to the family business. This only results in an increase in vulnerable employment.
It is, therefore, necessary for the government to promote inclusive growth by encouraging labour-intensive sectors. This includes investing in agriculture and effectively implementing social protection schemes. It would eventually help in the creation of more jobs.
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