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

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Rethinking India’s Employment Data Architecture

Following the recommendations of the task force set up to revamp the employment data architecture, India’s employment statistics are undergoing significant revision. The effort is largely directed at producing real-time high-frequency data in the formal sector. However, given that employment is dominated by low-wage and low-productivity jobs in the unorganised sector, this exercise will serve little purpose and only deflect attention from the enormity of the employment challenge.

The author is grateful to R Nagaraj for providing insightful comments and suggestions. I would also like to express my thanks to participants at the ICRIER-Ford Foundation, “Samwaad” on “Revamping the Statistical Architecture for Robust Data on Jobs in India—A Dialogue on India’s Employment Data.” Surbhi Ghai provided excellent research assistance.


India’s employment data architecture is in the midst of a massive overhaul. Historically, employment estimates have been generated using household and establishment surveys. The importance of analysing both these sources to get a comprehensive picture of India’s dualistic labour market, characterised by dominance of informal jobs, cannot be overemphasised. Household surveys capture both the organised and unorganised sectors, particularly the self-employed. In that sense, they largely satisfy the requirements of completeness. The quinquennial household surveys on employment and unemployment conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), the last of which was conducted in 2011–12, have been the primary source of various labour market indicators since 1972–73. The Labour Bureau since 2009–10 has also started conducting annual household employment and unemployment surveys. Establishment surveys, on the other hand, compile data from worksites and provide a more detailed picture of the industry structure of employment and characteristics of establishments.

The key establishment surveys in India include the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation’s Annual Survey of Industries (ASI) and the NSSO’s “Unincorporated Non-agricultural Enterprises (Excluding Construction).” While the ASI database is an annual one compiling information on the growth, composition and structure of “registered” or formal sector firms,1 the latter is a quinquennial survey which provides data on unregistered firms (own-account enterprises which operate without any hired worker and establishments with less than 10 workers).

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Updated On : 8th Oct, 2018
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