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

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Deconstructing India’s Employment Démarche

Informalisation of labour is more a matter of political manoeuvring than economic choice.


A backlog of 0.24 million unfilled posts in the public sector, as reported by the media recently, has escalated the contention surrounding the National Democratic Alliance government’s claim on job creation. With the public sector being the major contributor in formal sector employment in the country, historically, this backlog of vacancies speaks volumes about the nature of the jobs that the government claims to have created. Over the past decade, an organised sector-driven informalisation of employment has been an issue of concern of development practitioners in India; and this surfeit of vacant permanent posts in the government’s own backyards is indicative of a policy impulse that is supportive of such “informalisation” of labour.

The government, in fact, seems to be in denial that this contemporary trend of informalisation of labour in India is policy-induced. On one hand, by supplanting the traditionally used National Sample Survey Office’s (NSSO) employment–unemployment estimates, with the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) database of inconsistent quality, the government is trying to sweep some disconcerting evidences under the carpet. On the other, the Prime Minister’s recent comment, “Youth selling pakora outside… and earning₹200 a day also means creation of jobs,” indicates that political rhetoric deliberately uses the terms “informal,” “self”-employed and “entrepreneur” interchangeably to create a notion of informalisation as a “choice” of jobseekers, whereby they voluntarily forego benefits, such as social security, for potentially higher returns from economic activities with the flexibility of smaller size and lesser division of labour. Predominated by (self) employment in subsistence, footloose, low income and low productivity generating livelihoods, informal employment, particularly in the unorganised sector, is far from any entrepreneurship. While the low level of education and skill is used to explain away the unorganised sector informalisation, informalisation (exacerbated contractual or casual employments) in the organised sector, with presumably higher level of education and skill, is perplexing. And more so, when such informalisation occurs in specialised fields, such as academia.

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Updated On : 6th Sep, 2018
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