Farm unemployment: The way out

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Agriculture represents the primary sector of the Indian economy providing employment to about 51% of the total population with 14-15 per cent contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Agriculture in India is represented by both high degree of unemployment and under-employment and the data on this socio-economic issue indicates that we are heading towards a more devastating situation. This issue if not dealt with properly will further lead to socio-economic issues like poverty, malnutrition, and anti-social activities, etc.

Agriculture has been the dominant sector of labour concentration. Two third of the workforce of India is employed in agriculture and rural industries. One-third of rural households are agricultural labour households subsisting on poor wage employment. As different working operations have become capital intensive, the share of the manufacturing and service sectors have grown faster with regard to GDP and much slower with regard to employment since nineties. Various reports suggest that productivity during the period from 2004 to 2010 grew 34 per cent. India’s economic growth was thus more due to productivity than employment. As a limited number of additional jobs were created rural peoples especially the youths found themselves unemployed. The Indian labour market is classified into three segments: (i) rural, which constitutes about 60 per cent of the workforce; (ii) the organized or formal segment, which accounts for about 7 per cent of the workforce; and (iii) the urban unorganized or informal sector, which accounts for 32 per cent of the workforce. It thus means that nearly 93 per cent of workers are in the unorganized or informal sector, self-employed or employed as casual wage labourers.

This farm or agricultural unemployment in the country is prevailing in the form of seasonal unemployment, disguised unemployment and chronic and usual status unemployment. However, unemployment which is more severe and even more difficult to track is the disguised unemployment. A very high degree of disguise unemployment occurs in Indian agriculture for cultivators as well as labourers. This type of unemployment cannot even be reflected in the official unemployment records. Disguised employment is characteristic of developing economies where more of labour intensive work is done. It refers to situation condition where more workers are engaged in an occupation than are actually needed and is primarily traced in the agricultural and the unorganized sectors of the economy.
There are many causes of disguised unemployment. The high rate of population has lead to surplus labour, especially in the rural areas. The 2011 census says that about 70 per cent of the population of the country resides in rural areas. Because of the seasonal nature of agricultural operations and in the absence of other suitable alternatives, the surplus labour keeps on engaging in seasonal activities thus causing disguised unemployment. Poverty is also prevalent more so in the countryside. This poverty results in inability to purchase land and thus people have access to limited capital. It further increases dependency of more and more people on limited means. The surplus population makes the labour available in sufficient numbers and at cheaper rates. It becomes a perfect case of more peoples doing a work which could have been done by lesser number of people in the same time frame. The lack of desired skills and knowledge also becomes a limiting factor for the ruralites. This also makes them unable to avail better opportunities.

The Way Out:

The Indian Government has taken several measures to curb disguised unemployment and unemployment as a whole. Many new self-employment schemes have been launched and older ones modified to curb this social problem. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) is also a social security measure which guarantees the ‘right to work’. It gives the legal right to individuals to get at least 100 days of wage employment in a year to each household’s adult members. This MGNREGA scheme can be used to provide employment opportunities to rural peoples by giving them job in various agricultural related works like construction of bore wells, community water harvesting structures, storage structures, roads etc. This will not only create durable assets but will also give them productive employment thus reducing their dependence on agriculture in which they get disguised employment. The present state of farm unemployment has also to do with our educational system. The system of education in India is still a traditional one with more emphasis on class room learning. A report of the NASSCOM says that almost 40 per cent of the skilled workforce is not employable because the acquired education and training are of substandard quality. Now the government is also laying thrust on skill up gradation for youth. Various programmes such as stand up startup Pradhan Mantri Koushal Vikas Yojana have been started which can help them in getting a decent job or setting up their income generating units. Self Help Groups are also a remedy for removing rural poverty and keeping farm unemployment at bay. They have also led to their empowerment. Self Help Groups proved to be phenomenal success in states like Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. Thus, this model is being replicated in the other states of the country.

The skill development should be based on principles of androgogy, experiential learning and collaboration. Rural youths should be provided a platform to make them aware of different opportunities and give them various opportunities. Regular interactions with eminent personalities from industry, politics, and sports should be made a regular feature. This would ensure that the youth get the necessary awareness and inspiration to change themselves as well as become change agents. The established leaders can also mentor rural youth in establishing their own ventures so that after successful establishment of their ventures they do not just look up passively to take up employment opportunities, but proactively engage themselves as being creators of different job avenues, and providers of various services. The National Policy on Voluntary sector (2007) also envisages government collaboration with the voluntary organizations in poverty alleviation, skill promotion and entrepreneurship development. Skill development will also help to remove the mismatch between demand and supply of talent for various jobs in different sectors.

Honorable President Sh. Pranav Mukherjee has also advocated for training youth in the skills required to operate in the future world. He also warns of losing the ‘demographic dividend to demographic explosion’ if adequate skills are not provided to the youths of the country.


(The authors are from Advanced Centre for Rainfed Agriculture (ACRA) SKUAST-J)

Source: State Times

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