India is a large country with a large population. She is faced with an alarming situation of widespread unemployment. A large number of people are unemployed both in the urban and rural areas.
Unemployment is a condition of involuntary or forced idleness, which on the one hand hinders effective demand for agricultural and industrial products, and on the other paves the way for anti-social activities. It indicates a situation wherein all human resources which should have been geared to maximise the natural production are not being utilised. Such a situation results in far-reaching consequences. It makes the measures to increase production and renders the rights of labour unsafe. It is a criminal waste of productive power. Though it is a world-wide phenomenon, its consequences in under-developed and developing couptries are more dangerous than in industrially advanced countries, where it is only fractional and largely due to occasional deficiency in aggregate demand. In developing countries like India the production is labour Intensive rather than capital intensive, the wages and earnings of the workers are very inadequate resulting in general poverty all over. There is large scale under-employment in rural areas. In the middle class the extent of unemployment has reached alarming proportions. It is a most serious problem faced by India and a great challenge to the planners and administrators of the country. In recent years the problem has become a cause for grave concern as it has started threatening our economic and social fibre. It needs most immediate attention.
Before we discuss the ways and means to solve the problem of unemployment, it is better to examine the exact nature of it. The problem is widespread in rural as well urban areas. So far as rural areas are concerned, a very large number of people living in villages remain without any work for about five to seven months in the year. More than 70 per cent of the total pouplation of the country is engaged in or dependent on agricultural or allied operations. The total amount of work actually done by these over 70 per cent people, if measured in man-hours, is far below what this population is capable of doing. As a result of increasing poverty due to acute unemployment in rural areas, there has been a continuous movement of rural unemployed to urban areas. The population in the villages has increased at a much faster rate than the rate at which fresh land has been brought under cultivation. Lack of productive employment as well as decline of rural arts and crafts have been largely responsible for a move from the village to the town. Agriculture in India is seasonal and thus it causes seasonal unemployment, which varies from region to region and with the type of crops. With the continuous growth of population and with almost static area of cultivable land, there is a chronic redundance of agricultural labour, which has assumed the shape of disguised under-employment. Of the present total population of 600 msilion, a little less than 500 million people are dependent on agriculture. It is estimated that only about 20 per cent of these are actual cultivating farmers, while others are farm labourers. A large volume of disguised unemployment exists among workers in small and cottage industries, which have declined due to competition with big factory products, made within the country or imported from abroad.
The urban unemployed constitute the industrial labour and the educated youth. In recent years there has been a steady increase in their numbers, because of (0 rapid increase in the general population and (ii) large scale shift of labour from rural to urban areas. The industries and factories in the towns and cities have not been able to increase opportunities of employment to absorb these new additions. The rate of increase in the expansion of industries has not been adequate and the industries have concentrated oh fuller utilisation of their idle capacities rather than on creating new jobs. As a cumulative effect of all these factors, unemployment in the industrial field has gone up. So far as unemployment among educated middle class youth is -concerned, though there has been a substantial increase in their employment opportunities, yet it has failed to keep pace with the rapid increase in their numbers as a result of increase in population and educational facilities The schools and universities have produced a larger number of graduates without arranging for their employability.
Recently there has been a large exodus from villages to the towns and cities, because of the saturation level already reached in the village economy : The urban unemployed sector has further suffered due to steep rise in prices. The workers dependent on small industries are bound to suffer actuely either by shortage of raw meterial for the industries or high cost of production. Another cause of increasing unemployment is the rate of growth of population ; during the decade 1961-71, the population showeld an increase of 24’8 per cent. The population at present is estimated to be about 60 crores while it was about 55 crores in 1971. Those falling within the age-group of 15-49 are about 47 percent, which constitutes the able-bodied population of the country.
In the race between the economic growth and the creation of employment opportunities, the economic growth has been ranging between one per cent and three per cent per annum, which is quite inadequate to meet our requirements.
A complete picture of the level of present unemployment
situation in the country is difficult to be presented precisely. The
number of persons on the live registers of employment exchanges
in the’country does not give us the full picture, but only an idea of
the trend. These exchanges cover mostly the urban areas. The
registration of the jobless in the exchanges being voluntary, all the
unemployed persons do not register themselves with the exchanges.
The number of registered persons stood at about 95 lakhs at the
end of May 1976. This showed an increase of about 46 lakhs in
the position that existed at the end of May 1970. Out of these the
number of educated unemployed was about 48 lakhs, which recorded
an increase of about 25 lakhs in the position that existed at the
end of 1970. These figures do not show an exact level of unem
ployment. The number of unemployed must be much more. The
1971 census indicated that the number of agricultural labourers was
47’48 million and that of share-croppers was 15’6 million, making
a total of 63’08 million (the number must have gone much higher
by now). These persons got 100 to 150 days work in a year. The
Bhagwati Committtee which went into the question of unemploy
ment in 1970 estimated the unemployment figure at 18’7 million—
16’1 million in rural areas and 2’6 million in urban areas. According
.to the National Sample Survey of 1975, one Indian out of every
five is an utter destitute, one in every three is a destitute and nearly
half of the population of the country lives below the poverty line.
It is estimated that at present roughly 23 to 24 million people are
unemployed and about 40 per cent of the population is living below
the poverty line. Giving the figures of level of unemployment in
the country, ‘Yojna’ in its May 19,77 issue said, “It is estimated
that the number of unemployed would be about 29 million at
To meet the challenge of chronic under-employment in the trural areas, what is required is to provide productive work to the agricultural population, during seasonal idleness. The problem of seasonal unemployment may be tackled by starting public works. The government may take up useful irrigation and drainage projects, requiring local labour and material, which would gainfully employ seasonal idle agricultural population. Similarly construction of village roads, dispensaries and school buildings would result in net addition to the national wealth apart from offering employment to the unemployed. The perennial unemployment problem is naturally a much more difficult one which can be solved by bringing more land under cultivation and by pursuing a vigorous policy of rapid industrialisation.
With regard to tackling the urban unemployment problem, it may be suggested that if more land is brought under cultivation, the exodus from the rural areas to the cities is bound to be arrested. In addition development of village and cottage industries may also help in halting this one-sided traffic of idle labour. Some special schemes are necessary to remedy the increasing urban employment. Some may be encouraged to start their own independent business. Machinery and loans may be arranged for them at concessional rates. Another field which may be suggested for rinding additional employment for urban youth is transport. It would not only absorb a section of unemployed persons, but would create facilities for the public. A vigorous drive to end illiteracy can provide employment to a large number of educated unemployed. Similarly an extensive programme of public health measures would provide jobs to a large number of persons. Slum clearance schemes and construction of houses for the poor may also open avenues of employment. These measures suggested to reduce the level of unemployment in rural as well urban areas are only short term. A bold and imaginative plan to meet the challenge on a permanent basis would have to be adopted with special reference to the national policy on education and industry.
The problem of unemployment is directly associated with the problem of poverty. It has been causing acute hardship to millions of people in our country. This is not purely an economic problem but has far-reaching social implications. The problem of unemployment started with the end of the Second World War. The gradual demobilisation, retrenchment from services and sudden huge shrinking in demand of commodities of industries after the war, resulted in a large scale reduction in employment opportunities. Thereafter the problem continued to accentuate without being tackled in a serious way. Our Five-Year Plans did take notice of the problem, but nothing substantial was done to solve it. The situation further worsened due to rapid increase in the growth of population. It is not that no serious efforts were made to remedy the situation or to prevent it going from bad to worse, but they failed to produce any tangible impact.
As a serious step to face the challenge of the problem of
increasing unemployment, a Committee on Employment was constituted by the government in December 1970. The committee was entrusted with the work of undertaking a study of the problem and make recommendations to solve it. The Committee gave its interim report in Feb. 1972. An amount of Rs. 250 crores was earmarked for providing larger volume of employment during the last two years of the Fourth Plan. The report laid great stress on the need for rural and economic regeneration. It recommended a massive programme of minor irrigation, soil conservation, rural roads, expansion of primary education, expansion of rural public health facilities, rural housing, inland water transport, flood control, expansion of area under multiple cropping, and agro-based cottage and small scale industries. It was expected that the proposed programmes would generate roughly 40 lakh jobs. The Committee submitted its final report in 1973. But unfortunately the recommendations of the Committee were not implemented. These recommendations did not find a place even in Fifth Plan. The Rural Employment Crash Programme was started with great expectations in 1971 but it failed miserably and an amount of Rs. 150 crores spent during 1971-72, 1972-73 and 1973-74 was almost wasted. Even the Emergency Agriculture Production Programme did not make any substantial impact and unemployment went on increasing both in the urban and the rural areas.
The new government that came to power in March 1977 has promised the removal of destitution within a period of ten years. The unemployment problem is a serious national problem. No politics should be allowed to be mixed with it. All our efforts to bring prosperity will meet with little success, unless a satisfactory solution is found to this problem. Only a determined political will, supported by a massive practical programme genuinely implemented, can bring gainful results. It is equally essential that the programmes are formulated in an imaginative way, taking into account the exact and particular situation obtaining in the country at present. Application of any readymade or borrowed solution will not help. It is, therefore, necessary that whatever schemes are drawn up for creating employment opportunities for millions of unemployed and under-employed, should have a direct relation to the particular causes which have led the country to such a pass. It should be a package programme capable of dealing with all areas of the wide spread problem. It is equally important that the strategy to fight the menace of unemployment must take into account the typical nature of involuntary idleness and also the efBoaey of the measures decided to be taken. The announcement made by the Prime Minister Mr. Desai for removal of unemployment appears to be an attempt in the right direction. It reads :
“The government is pledged to the removal of destitution within a definite time frame of ten years. To achieve this objective government will follow an employment oriented strategy in which priority will be given to the development of agriculture, agro-industries, small and cottage industries, especially in rural areas. High priority will also be given to the provision of minimum needs in rural areas and to integrated rural development.”
As a matter of fact any plan or strategy for the removal of unemployment must concentrate on rural development which concerns about 80% of our population. If the problem of poverty and unemployment in our rural areas is successfully solved, we would have turned the corner. There are lakhs of villages where massive employment schemes can be started immediately for providing some gainful jobs to jobless persons without any delay. It would not involve investment of large sums. But any amount of money spent to better the lot of our poor fellow countrymen, especially to improve the miserable condition of the millions, who are living below the poverty line, will be well spent.