ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Articles by K SundaramSubscribe to K Sundaram

Suresh Tendulkar: An Economist's Life

An outstanding academician with an enviable publication record and a public servant of enormous personal integrity, Suresh D Tendulkar (1939-2011) was also a warm friend, an excellent colleague, and, above all, a great human being. A record of his life and work, and tributes by his friends, colleagues and students.

Employment, Wages and Poverty in the Non-Agricultural Sector: All-India, 2000-05

Analysing the unit record data from the National Sample Survey (55th and 61st rounds) on employment and unemployment, the organised sector workforce in non-agriculture is shown to be larger than the corresponding Directorate General of Employment and Training estimates by 16.5 million in 2004-05 and to have increased by 5.4 million between 2000 and 2005 instead of the 1.6 million decrease indicated by the corresponding dge&t estimates. Examining some features of employment contracts of the regular wage/salary workers who account for 88 per cent of the organised sector workforce, it is shown that between 14 and 27 million of the 41.5 million workers in organised non-agriculture are perhaps better labelled as informal workers who are without access to a set of social security benefits, though they are located in the formal sector. An analysis of labour productivity in the organised-unorganised segments of broad industry groups for 1999-2000 and 2004-05 is followed by an examination of differences across the organised-unorganised divide in average daily earnings and in the poverty status of adult workers in non-agricultural activities for 2004-05.

Employment and Poverty in India, 2000-2005

This paper is principally focused on the changes in the size and structure of the workforce and the changes in labour productivity, wages and poverty in India in the first quinquennium of the 21st century. The period between 2000 and 2005 saw a sharp acceleration in workforce growth, and, on the obverse side, a slowdown in the rate of growth of labour productivity across most sectors and in the economy as a whole, and, a slowdown (a decline) in real wage growth in rural (urban) India. Consistent with the trends in labour productivity and real wages, relative to the 1994-2000 period, the pace of poverty reduction between 2000 and 2005 shows, at best, a marginal acceleration (or a marginal deceleration, depending on the choice of poverty lines) in rural India and a clear slowdown in urban India. This period also saw a small rise in the number of working poor and a substantial rise in the number of self-employed and regular wage/salary workers in the "above poverty line" households.

On Backwardness and Fair Access to Higher Education

Against the backdrop of the policy of reservation of seats in higher education for the Other Backward Classes in India, this paper examines two inter-related yet distinct issues: (i) the use of economic criteria for assessing the backwardness of different social groups, and (ii) assessment of fairness of access to higher education of an identified "backward" social group. On an analysis of the NSS 55th round surveys for 1999-2000 we show that, on a range of economic criteria, there is a clear hierarchy across (essentially) caste-based social groups, with the scheduled castes (in urban India) and the scheduled tribes (in rural India) at the bottom, the OBCs in the middle, and the non-SC/ST "Others" at the top. However, for the poor among them, there is more of a continuum across caste-groups, with surprisingly small differences between the OBCs and the non-SC/ST Others. It is also shown that for the OBCs as a group, and especially for over 70 per cent of them who are above the poverty line, the extent of their under-representation in enrolments at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels is less than 5 per cent. Therefore, a 27 per cent quota for the OBCs, which would effectively raise their share in enrolments to over 50 per cent when their share in the eligible population is 30 per cent or less, is totally unjustified.

The Poor in the Indian Labour Force

Comparable all-India estimates of the number of workers and unemployed in 'below poverty line' households - together defining the poor in the Indian labour force - are presented for 1993-94 and 1999-2000. Also presented is the gender, activity-status and the rural-urban composition of this group for the two time points. From a level of 115 million (43 million females and 21 million urban) the number of working poor declined by a little over 12 million - almost entirely in rural India - over the six-year period. Over 51 (36) per cent of the rural (urban) working poor were engaged in unskilled manual labour with a further 46 per cent (44 per cent in urban India) being absorbed by low-productivity self-employment.

Poverty among Social and Economic Groups in India in 1990s

This paper examines the levels and changes in poverty indicators of the rural and urban population in India disaggregated by social and economic groups. The analysis is based on the comparable estimates of poverty for the mixed reference period computed from the unit record data for the 50th (1993-94) and the 55th (1999-2000) rounds of the Consumer Expenditure Surveys conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation. The issue is how far different social and economic groups shared the overall decline in poverty in the 1990s. The social groups most vulnerable to poverty have been identified to be scheduled caste and scheduled tribe households with both these groups having above average levels of poverty indicators in the rural and the urban population. Among the economic groups, the most vulnerable groups are the agricultural labour households (rural) and the casual labour households (urban) each having the highest levels of poverty indicators in their respective population segments. In terms of changes in poverty in the 1990s, it is found that while scheduled caste, agricultural labour (rural) and casual labour (urban) households experienced declines in poverty on par with the total population, scheduled tribe households fared badly in both the segments.

Poverty in India in the 1990s

This note corrects an inadvertent but key error in the authors' estimates of poverty for 1993-94 on the mixed reference period and presents the impact of the correction on the conclusions stated in their earlier papers. At the all-India level, except in respect of the number of urban poor, all the earlier results on the direction of change, namely, a clear and unambiguous decline in poverty in India in the 1990s, continue to hold good. However, the size of the decline in poverty between 1993-94 and 1999-2000, in terms of percentage change over the 1993-94 levels, is reduced by between 7 and 10 percentage points depending on the indicator and the population segment considered. Despite this, the average annual reduction in poverty was higher in the last six years of the 1990s than that recorded during the ten-and-a-half years preceding 1993-94.

Poverty in India in the 1990s

The authors examine the poverty situation in 15 major states across four distinct dimensions of headcount ratio, size of the poor population, depth and severity for the rural, the urban and the total population. The poverty situation, they find, worsened over the six-year period 1993-94 to 1999-2000 in Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. In the remaining 12 states there was a distinct improvement in terms of the most visible indicator, namely, the absolute size of the poor population. Overall, despite diversity across poverty indicators and across states, the overwhelming impression is one of greater improvement in the poverty situation in the 1990s than in the previous 10�½-year period.

On Identification of Households below Poverty Line in BPL Census 2002

States and Union Territories have been asked, in the context of the Tenth Five-Year Plan, to launch the BPL (Below Poverty Line) Census 2002 as per the recommendations of the Expert Group on Identification of Households Below Poverty Line. Besides being used for the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the poverty alleviation programmes of the ministry of rural development, the BPL-APL (Above Poverty Line) distinction is already being used for pricing grain under the public distribution system and is likely to be used by other ministries also for �better targeting' of their programmes. Since expenditure of vast sums of taxpayers' money annually will thus be riding on the APL-BPL categorisation of households, it is imperative that the methodology proposed by the Expert Group underpinning the 2002 BPL Census is widely discussed and debated.

NAS-NSS Estimates of Private Consumption for Poverty Estimation

The fact that NSS estimates of aggregate household consumer expenditure (HCE) tend to be lower than NAS estimates of private final consumption expenditure (PFCE) has spurred suggestions to pro-rata adjust the NSS-based size distribution on the basis of this difference. Drawing on a joint CSO-NSSO exercise at cross-validation of NAS and NSS, this paper details weaknesses of both types of estimates, but shows that NAS cannot be accepted as a more reliable yardstick for either aggregate consumption expenditure or that on specific commodity groups. This is due to the inherent 'fluidity' of NAS estimates, weaknesses in their underlying database, and the fragility of the rates, ratios and norms used in the commodityflow balance underpinning the PFCE. Despite its shortcomings, it is argued that NSS is preferable because it is based on direct observations relating to the survey period and because, unlike NAS, it avoids recourse to adjustments based on arbitrary assumptions.

Poverty Has Declined in the 1990s

In debates over Indian poverty trends in the 1990s, questions have been raised about the comparability of the quinquennial 50th and 55th rounds of the consumer expenditure survey (CES) carried out by the National Sample Survey Organisation in 1993-94 and 1999-2000. These focus on possible interference between alternative reference periods used to elicit expenditure data from sampled households. This paper resolves these concerns, using comparable consumer expenditure data from the employment-unemployment survey (EUS) of the 55th round, as well as data from four experimental rounds of the CES, conducted between the quinquennial larger scale 50th and 55th rounds. It shows that the size distributions of consumer expenditure from the 55th round CES are comparable to ones from the 50th round - subject to appropriate recalculation - and that there is accordingly unambiguous evidence that poverty in India declined in the 1990s, in all dimensions. Indeed, the average annual rate of reduction in the last six years of the 1990s is shown to have been higher than that between 1982 and 1993.


Back to Top