No jobs, no future: Millions of Indians quit labour market

Labour force shrank by 3.8 million during March to 428 million, the lowest in eight months, data show

migrant labourers
The pandemic-induced lockdown saw closing of trade hubs across the country leaving lakhs of workers jobless | File Photo: PTI

India’s labour force shrank by 3.8 million (38 lakh) in March to 428 million (42.8 crore), the lowest in eight months, according to data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE).

Employment shrank by 1.4 million to 396 million in March, while the number of unemployed fell by 2.4 million.

According to data analysis, both employment and unemployment are decreasing in the country.

In terms of numbers – the country has witnessed a decline in the employment rate to 36.5% in March from 36.7% in February. On the other hand, the unemployment rate fell to 7.6% from 8.1% in February.

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“The fall in the absolute count of unemployed or the unemployment rate is not because more people got employed. What the labour market statistics of March 2022 show is India’s biggest sign of economic distress. Millions left the labour markets and they even stopped looking for employment, possibly too disappointed with their failure to get a job and under the belief that there were no jobs available,” CMIE said.

Data analysis shows the labour participation rate fell to 39.5% in March from 39.9% in February.

The decreased labour participation rate in March is even lower than the figure recorded during the second wave of Covid-19 in April-June 2021 when it had fallen to 39.6% in June, which reflects the inadequacy of the growth in employment opportunities.

As per the CMIE data, a significant portion of the increase in employment in March in the agriculture sector was disguised unemployment.

Among non-agricultural jobs lost in March, industrial jobs fell by 7.6 million, 4.1 million jobs were lost from the manufacturing sector, 2.9 million jobs were lost from the construction sector, while 1.1 million lost their jobs in the mining sector.

This data comes against the backdrop of rising fuel prices and price rise in essential items. Vegetable prices have skyrocketed with the price of lemons reaching the 300-mark in Delhi and other areas. Milk prices have also seen an increase in the past few months.

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