India has significantly expanded the share of workers with regular wages, narrowed caste-based segregation, and reduced gender-based disparities in the workforce from the 1980s, the ‘State of Working India (SWI) 2023’, a report released by Azim Premji University says. The connection between GDP growth and good quality jobs, however, remains weak, it notes.

After stagnating since the 1980s, the share of workers with regular wage or salaried work started increasing in 2004, going from 18% to 25% for men and 10% to 25% for women. Between 2004 and 2017, around 3 million regular-wage jobs were created annually. Between 2017 and 2019, this jumped to 5 million per year. Since 2019, the pace of regular wage job creation decreased due to the growth slowdown and the pandemic, the report says.

 “The report offers an in-depth analysis of the relationship between economic growth, structural change, and social disparities over a long period since the 1980s and examines the short-term effects of the pandemic on the labour market. We hope that the report will provide useful information to enable us to further reduce disparities and make growth an inclusive process,” Amit Basole, the lead author of the report and Professor of Economics at Azim Premji University says.

The report notes since the 1990s, year-on-year non-farm GDP growth and non-farm employment growth are uncorrelated with each other suggesting that policies promoting faster growth need not promote faster job creation. However, between 2004 and 2019, on average, growth translated to decent employment. This was interrupted by the pandemic which caused larger growth in distress employment, it says. According to the report, post-Covid, the unemployment rate is lower than it was pre-Covid, for all education levels. But it remains above 15% for graduates and more worryingly it touches a huge 42% for graduates under 25 years.

The report draws on evidence from official data sources and a novel primary survey, the Indian Working Survey, conducted in collaboration with IWWAGE and IIM Bangalore. It takes an in-depth look at the impact of economic growth and structural change on social disparities. It shows while significant progress has been made on all fronts, there is still a long road ahead. 

“Good news in a report on jobs is rare anywhere in the world today. So, the State of Working India 2023 is full of good things that have happened in India regarding jobs and livelihood is not only heartening but also energising. The basic story the report tells is that of progress on many dimensions of jobs, including their quality, equity, and justice, while it also points out the challenges that remain,” notes Indu Prasad, vice chancellor, Azim Premji University.

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