The news that the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) has added 10.13 million new subscribers in the first six months of this year because of an amnesty is further proof that Indian employment data is a mess. The data suggests that India has underestimated the number of jobs in the formal sector. And the picture should improve further once contract workers are taken into account.

Policy discussions in India are often dominated by airy narratives about jobless growth, conveniently avoiding the rather obvious question about why wage rates have gone up over the past decade if indeed no new jobs have been created. Much of the blame rests with a problematic 2009 survey by the National Sample Survey Office.

Indian labour market debates are further muddied by the unfortunate fact that very few women are in the labour force. In fact, millions of women voluntarily withdrew from the labour force in the first decade of this century.

India needs far better employment statistics if the policy response is to be more effective.