New Delhi: The International Labour Organization (ILO) on Thursday praised India’s “impressive economic growth", but urged the country to make efforts to create more “decent jobs" and formalize its workforce.

After meeting labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya, ILO director-general Guy Ryder said that India must make efforts to reduce informality in the workforce in general and curb contract labour within the formal workforce.

“...Make in India great, Start-up India great, Skill India great; make Formal India part of the story," he told reporters in New Delhi.

He said that the formal workforce percentage has grown in India but there are issues around casualization and contractualization of the workforce. Within the formal workforce, there are several that will not qualify as “decent jobs", Ryder said.

He said jobless growth is a problem in India as well as elsewhere and that the world needs to create some 600 million jobs over the next 15 years to provide meaningful engagement to youngsters.

“You have to look at what is happening in the Indian labour market, which is a complex situation. There is job expansion in some areas whereas (there is) contraction in growth in some other areas. You need to strike a balance in both," he said, referring to issues like low productivity in manufacturing, casualization and the huge informal workforce in the country.

“...That’s why focus on the rural economy is important, focus on formalization is important," he said.

Ryder said when ILO talks about the future of work and workforce, then “we have to look at India", because of its large young population.

India has more than 600 million people below the age of 35 and their work and productivity can help the country reap better economic dividends.

Ryder, however, said that during his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and labour minister Dattatreya, he gathered a sense that the country is making efforts for more employment creation. “The ambition of India and objective of ILO are matching. There is a clear convergence of objectives," he said, adding that ILO can help India in social protection strategy, in rural employment, skill development and entrepreneurship efforts.

Dattatreya said that the government is making efforts to create more jobs and provide social and wage security to the workforce. The minister said he and Ryder discussed several issues, including the labour reform initiatives that the government is undertaking.

The minister told Ryder that the reform move is aimed at simplifying existing labour laws.

“The minister said, the intention is to make the law more transparent, less cumbersome. I welcome that," Ryder said.

He also touched upon the need for more women’s participation in the workforce and asked industries and policymakers in India and elsewhere to reduce the gender pay gap disparity, “which is 20%".

D.L. Sachdeva, national secretary of the All India Trade Union Congress, affiliated to the Communist Party of India, said that contractualization is a huge problem and alleged that the Union government was making tacit attempts to encourage it.

Workers’ protection is less now and the minimum wage in the private sector is not growing despite unions demanding it for years. “Decent work and decent wage are a necessity," he said.

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