As Job Losses Mount, BJP Seeks to Differentiate Between Employment Creation and Job Generation

Labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya sidestepped questions on jobless economic growth and the impact of demonetisation after admitting to 'jobless growth'.

Coming under repeated attacks for job losses across sectors and its inability to stem the tide by creating an environment conducive for business growth and employment generation, the BJP has now taken to avoiding key questions and begun resorting to obfuscating the issue by trying to portray that job loss or creation and employment generation were two different things. The party-led government at the Centre has also taken to sidestepping questions on jobless economic growth and impact of demonetisation thereon.

In response to several questions on the issue in parliament, the labour and employment ministry has in the ongoing monsoon session avoided key questions while hiding behind the comfort of spelling out the features of key central schemes for employment generation.

1.5 millions jobs lost in Jan-April 2017

The Wire had earlier reported how 1.5 million jobs were lost in India during the first four months of 2017, according to data released by Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). The issue of job losses has been repeatedly raised members in parliament through questions.

Today, in response to a question on whether automation in industry would result in job losses and retrenchment of factory workers and the estimated job losses/gains in low and high skilled IT industry in the country so far, labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya avoided a direct answer and only acknowledged that “according to the World Development Report (WDR) 2016 of World Bank based on technological feasibility, 69% of jobs in India are susceptible to automation.”

The minister also said that “companies are re-aligning and re-adjusting themselves to the changing business scenario and adjusting their workforce accordingly” as the technologies such as advanced robotics and automation are changing job roles across industries.

3.9 million employed in IT-ITES in 2017

He added that as per National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), the industry was estimated to employ nearly 3.9 million people in FY2017, an addition of approximately 1,70,000 people over FY2016, and that the IT-ITES industry would remain a major net hirer in FY 2017-18. But clearly this data was far removed from the job loss figures CMIE had indicated.

Noting that the Centre uses results of surveys conducted by ministry of statistics & programme implementation and labour bureau to estimate levels of employment and unemployment, the minister said quick quarterly surveys on employment and unemployment in selected labour intensive and export oriented sectors are also conducted and as per the 2016 QQS “the net addition of jobs in these sectors is estimated to be 2.31 lakhs.”

22,000 IT/BPO jobs added in 2016 second half

“In IT/BPO sector,” he said, “there has been estimated increase in employment of 0.22 lakhs during July – December, 2016.”

The minister’s reply then went deep into the details of various government run employment generation schemes such as the Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP) run by ministry of micro, small & medium enterprises, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA), Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) scheme run by ministry of rural development and Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM) run by ministry of housing & urban poverty alleviation.

It also delved into how a new scheme, Pradhan Mantri Rojgar Protsahan Yojana, has been initiated by the ministry of labour and employment in the year 2016-17 for incentivising industry for promoting employment generation with the allocation of Rs 1000 crore. Under this scheme, he said, employers would be provided an incentive to enhance employment where the government will pay the employer’s contribution of 8.33% employees pension scheme made to new employees.

Government repeating itself

In fact, the data on government schemes appears to have become a standard for all ministry answers on the issue, no matter whether the member has sought their details or not. A week back, on July 24, Dattatreya had given out almost the same data while sidestepping the question from Jitendra Chaudhary on “whether the government is aware of the apprehension raised from various quarters about increased job crisis in the country in near future” and “whether the government has taken note of firing of large number of employees in the private sector”.

All that the minister offered by way of an answer was that “employment generation has been one of the most important priorities of the government. Employment generation is both a cause and consequence of economic growth and is impacted by demographic shifts and technological transformations.” He had again spoken about the QQS and the government schemes.

Jobless economic growth

Similarly, when on July 17, five members had raised the issue of “jobless economic growth” and demanded to know among other things “whether the current growth of the economy is not translating into more employment”, Dattatreya sidestepped the issue.

Though the minister had on May 30 this year himself stated that “the current growth is a jobless growth. Many European and Asian countries, including India, are facing it… growth is being reported but it is not reflecting in employment generation,” in his answer he did not repeat himself. Rather he offered 2015 data of the International Labour Organisation to state that India’s Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) or the percentage of population employed (of workforce aged 15 years and above) was lower than that of most other continents at 53.8%.

The Minister, however, stated that a task-force has been constituted under the Chairpersonship of Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog to address the issue of timely, periodic and reliable data on job creation and that its report has been placed in the public domain.

Key questions avoided

Similarly, Dattatreya had chosen to deftly answer a question on the “impact of demonetisation on job market” in his reply to member of parliament Rahul Kaswan on July 17. While the member had asked among other things “whether the unorganized sector in the country had to face loss of job opportunities on account of demonetisation” and “whether the government has conducted any study to assess the impact of demonetisation in the employment market”, all that the minister had to state was “employment in unorganized sector depends on variety of factors and it is difficult to pin point the degree of impact of demonetisation thereon. There is no such input available with this Ministry nor any such study has been conducted in this regard.”

Did Amit Shah make Dattatreya change track?

A probable reason for the evasive responses on the issue of job losses and impact of demonetisation could be pressure on the ministry from the party. In June, BJP national president Amit Shah had while disagreeing with Dattatreya’s views on “jobless economic growth” stated that job creation in tourism and aviation sectors was not factored in by the latter.

Shah, while defending his government’s economic policies, had also stated that “the investment made in various sectors, including through programmes like Make in India, is bringing in more funds and would create jobs.”

In fact, Shah had given an all new dimension to the issue of job creation and employment generation, when he had sought to differentiate between the two. He claimed that through financing by Mudra Bank, which extended loans without guarantee, over 7 crore youth have been provided self-employment opportunities. “”As many as 7.64 crore youth have got employment through Mudra bank. The loan amount that is disbursed by the bank varies from Rs 10,000 to Rs 10 lakh. These people turned from job seekers to job-generators,” he had claimed.

The BJP president reiterated this claim at a press conference in Lucknow today where he insisted that the government was focussed on employment generation and not just creation of jobs.