A new report has found that five million men lost their jobs between 2016 and 2018 and that the beginning of the turmoil coincided with demonetisation in November 2016.

The State of Working India 2019 by Azim Premji Centre for Sustainable Employment, however, clarified that "no direct causal relationship can be established”. In addition to rising unemployment among the higher educated, the report found that less-educated workers have seen job losses and reduced work opportunities since 2016. This is possibly because a large number of these people were employed in the informal sector, which was severely impacted by demonetisation and the introduction of the goods and services tax. It described the last three years as “one of great turmoil in the Indian labour market as well as in the system of labour statistics”.

Unemployment in the country is pegged at 6.1% in 2017-18 by the NSSO’s Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS)—the highest in 45 years. The government has received a lot of flak for withholding NSSO’s data and data on jobs created under the Micro Units Mudra scheme, and not delivering on their promise of creating millions on jobs.

The State of Working India 2019 analysed data from the Consumer Pyramids Survey of the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy that covers about 160,000 households and 522,000 individuals.

It says that unemployment, in general, has increased since 2011, and at around 6%, the unemployment rate is double of what it was in the decade from 2000 to 2011. The report also underlines that India’s unemployed are mostly the higher educated who aspire to a regular, formal job, and the young. The unemployment rate among educated women is high, too

“Open unemployment in India today is largely a concern for those under 35 years of age and those who are educated beyond Class 10, and particularly beyond Class 12,” the report said.

For instance, among urban women, graduates make 10% of the working age population but 34% of the unemployed. The age group of 20-24 years is also hugely over-represented among the unemployed. Urban men in this age group account for 13.5% of the working age population, and 60% of the unemployed, says the report.

It also proposes a National Urban Employment Guarantee Programme to strengthen small and medium-sized towns “by providing urban residents a legal right to employment, improving urban infrastructure and services, restoring urban commons and ecology, skilling youth, and increasing the financial and human capacity of urban local bodies”.

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