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Guy Ryder, director general of International Labour Organization. Photo: AP
Guy Ryder, director general of International Labour Organization. Photo: AP

Don’t scrap rural jobs scheme: ILO

ILO chief Guy Ryder says India needs to continue strong 'social policies' such as the MGNREGS to give 'guaranteed' days of employment to the rural poor

As the number of jobless globally crosses 204 million amid slow economic growth and widening inequalities, India needs to continue strong “social policies" such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) to provide “guaranteed" days of employment to the rural poor, the head of the International Labour Organization (ILO) has said.

ILO director-general Guy Ryder issued an alarming message to governments pursuing “austerity" policies, including the Indian government. He said the “austerity trajectory" adopted by many policymakers has significantly contributed to massive unemployment and widening economic inequalities.

The ILO chief underscored the need for investing in infrastructure and manufacturing sectors to generate employment. The deceleration in economic growth in India has contributed to an increase in the unemployment over the last four years, Ryder suggested.

The MGNREGS, which guarantees at least 100 days of employment a year to at least one member of every rural household, was introduced by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government that lost power in the April-May 2014 general election.

“Certainly, social policy is a matter of great concern in India and the (new) government must pursue policies adopted by the previous government like the guaranteed employment for certain days for rural poor," Ryder said.

“I think we have seen some remarkable positive results from the National Rural Employment Guarantee programme which provided employment for a minimum number of days to rural poor and other vulnerable sections of the Indian society," the ILO chief emphasized.

The ILO’s flagship report, World Employment and Social Outlook—Trends 2015, to be released on Tuesday, says 212 million people will be out of work by 2019, up from the current 201 million in 2014.

Countries are continuing to reel under the adverse effects of the economic crisis that started in 2008. The economic crisis has wreaked havoc on young workers (aged 15-24). The report says that “the youth unemployment rate reached 13% in 2014 which is almost three times higher than the unemployment rate for adults".

Despite the worsening unemployment figures, the number of people in the middle class has increased and now make up more than 34% of total employment in developing countries.

ILO has argued that there is no contradiction between this sign of economic progress and the sharp rise in unemployment. “A complex set of factors are rebalancing the world economy and the increase in the middle class is an encouraging development," Ryder said.

While there is some modest improvement in the employment situation in the US and Japan, the overall trend is not encouraging in America because some four million people have withdrawn from the labour market.

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