Share of Young People in MGNREGA Workforce Rises, Pointing to Rural Distress

This trend is particularly worrisome since the age bracket 18-30 years is the entry-level workforce.

Mumbai: In what could be a grim indicator of rural distress and the lack of employment opportunities, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) data shows that the share of workforce in the 18-30 age bracket has begun to rise in the wake of demonetisation and the rollout of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The data, analysed by the Indian Express, indicates that the share of the workforce in the 18-30 age group has begun moving up after the financial year 2017-18.

This trend is particularly worrisome since the age bracket 18-30 years is the entry-level workforce. In 2013-14, the total number of young workers (18-30 years) employed under the job guarantee scheme was more than one crore. Eventually, this number was brought down to 58.69 lakh in 2017-18. However, their number started rising again and has reached 70.71 lakh in 2018-19, the Indian Express report states.

In the current financial year, as of October 21, the number of young persons employed under MGNREGA has already reached 57.57 lakh.

According to the MGNREGA data, the total number of individuals who worked under the scheme has gone up in recent years. For instance, in 2013-14, 7.95 crore people had availed work under MGNREGA and this number had come down to 6.71 crore in 2014-15.

A rise was again noticed in 2015-16 with 7.21 crore availing jobs and later 7.65 crore working under the scheme in 2016-17, followed by 7.76 crore in 2018-19.

Also read | Rural Demand Slides to Lowest in Seven Years: Report

The report points out that among them the ratio of young workers among total MGNREGA workers was 13.64% in 2013-14 and the figure had slide to 7.73% in 2017-18. This figure, however, showed a substantial rise to 9.1% in 2018-19 and 10.06% in 2019-20.

Nikhil Dey, founding member of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, an NGO closely working on MGNREGA, is quoted in the report as saying, “There is a slowdown in the economy. The situation is bleak for young people. They have to sustain their education and find livelihood. When they are unable to find a job, they turn to MGNREGA. MGNREGA is a stop-gap arrangement for them.”

Also read | Economic Survey’s Call for MGNREGA to Become ‘Rural Distress Indicator’ a Nod to Jobs Crisis?

In the first tenure, the Modi government had taken two drastic decisions and experts feel they have had a long-lasting impact on the economy. In November 2016, the government decided to demonetise high-value currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 and soon after GST was implemented from July 1, 2017.

Both these decisions caused disruptions in the economy, which many experts feel contributed to the slowdown. GDP growth, which peaked at 8.2% in 2016-17, also came down in subsequent years. It is down to 6.8% in 2018-19.