Agri­cul­ture

India Today - - COVER STORY | JOBS -

TO­TAL PRO­DUC­TION $366.92 bil­lion CON­TRI­BU­TION TO GDP 17.9% SUR­PLUS WORK­ERS IN UN­OR­GAN­ISED SEC­TOR (MAINLY AGRI­CUL­TURE) 104 mil­lion CHAL­LENGES

Agri­cul­ture re­mains an al­most wholly un­or­gan­ised sec­tor. Em­ploy­ment con­di­tions re­main so pa­thetic that work­ers mov­ing from this sec­tor to un­or­gan­ised nona­gri­cul­tural sec­tors al­ways find an im­prove­ment in em­ploy­ment con­di­tions—wages are al­ways higher.

The ex­cess sup­ply of agri­cul­tural labour shows up not as high un­em­ploy­ment but as un­der­em­ploy­ment of a large sec­tion of the em­ployed. Ca­sual wage em­ploy­ees, for ex­am­ple, can­not find work 10-20 per cent of the time.

There are al­to­gether 104 mil­lion sur­plus work­ers in this sec­tor that are se­ri­ously un­der­em­ployed. If they were em­ployed in dif­fer­ent sec­tors, agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity would rise and in­crease wage rates of non-sur­plus work­ers.

The wages for ca­sual labour in con­struc­tion have been and re­main much higher than in agri­cul­ture, in both the or­gan­ised and un­or­gan­ised seg­ments. Ca­sual labour­ers, there­fore, have much to gain by mov­ing from agri­cul­ture to con­struc­tion.

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE

Eight mil­lion jobs need to be cre­ated per year for the next 15 years to tackle un­em­ploy­ment and un­der­em­ploy­ment in agri­cul­ture. This is aside from an ad­di­tional 8 mil­lion jobs re­quired an­nu­ally for fresh en­trants to the work force. Work­ers in this sec­tor also need to be ed­u­cated so that they can find bet­ter em­ploy­ment.

MGNREGA made it oblig­a­tory for the gov­ern­ment to pro­vide 100 days of em­ploy­ment ev­ery year at a fixed min­i­mum wage to mem­bers of rural house­holds. About 5.1 crore house­holds were pro­vided em­ploy­ment dur­ing 2016-17. Even though im­ple­men­ta­tion has been far from per­fect, it is widely agreed that schemes un­der MGNREGA helped the poor by pro­vid­ing em­ploy­ment and by in­creas­ing the wage rate for ca­sual labour.

The ob­jec­tives of MGNREGA in­cluded the cre­ation of a so­cial safety net via a fall­back em­ploy­ment op­tion and by the de­vel­op­ment of in­fra­struc­ture (ir­ri­ga­tion and wa­ter man­age­ment sys­tems and road net­works in par­tic­u­lar), which could stim­u­late growth of agri­cul­ture and thus strengthen the rural econ­omy. The con­tin­u­a­tion of such poli­cies would go a long way in mit­i­gat­ing un­der­em­ploy­ment and un­em­ploy­ment among agri­cul­tural work­ers.

Ajit K. Ghose Hon­orary pro­fes­sor, In­sti­tute of Hu­man De­vel­op­ment, Head, NITI Aayog work­ing com­mit­tee on jobs

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