Parl panel recommends MGNREGS-like job scheme for urban poor

A concerted job growth-oriented approach needs to be adopted amid rising job loss and high unemployment, the panel said

Prashant K. Nanda
First Published5 Aug 2021
The panel also underlined that the poor and vulnerable workers in the unorganized sectors have been in distress specifically because of low levels of income and savings, lack of employment security, and access to government social protection.
The panel also underlined that the poor and vulnerable workers in the unorganized sectors have been in distress specifically because of low levels of income and savings, lack of employment security, and access to government social protection.(Mint)

India needs to formulate an urban national job guarantee scheme on the lines of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) to help people recover from massive job and income loss following the coronavirus outbreak, a parliamentary standing committee has recommended to the Union government.

The committee recommendation shall generate interest in an urban MGNREGS beyond labour experts and economists.

The impact of job loss and high unemployment will cast a “long shadow” on the economy, and a concerted job growth-oriented approach needs to be adopted, the committee emphasized.

“The consequential effects on loss of jobs, rising unemployment, indebtedness, nutrition, health and education of unorganized workers and their family members have the potential to cast a long shadow and cause irreparable damage,” the standing committee on labour headed by Biju Janata Dal parliamentarian Bhartruhari Mahtab has said in its report submitted to Parliament.

“The committee’s attention has been drawn to the fact that unlike employment generation programmes in rural areas, the plight of urban poor has not got much attention of the government… There is an imperative need for putting in place an employment guarantee programme for the urban workforce in line with MGNREGA,” the committee wrote, while suggesting that authorities take up employment focused growth programmes to create more jobs.

Experts argued that covid-19 hit sectors such as construction, hospitality, retail trade, and transport, reducing employment opportunities and leading to the migrant crisis. An urban jobs scheme will help tide over such situations, they said.

The need for an urban employment guarantee scheme was highlighted after the first wave of the covid-19 when millions of people left urban India for their homes in the rural areas, said Arup Mitra, a professor of economics at Delhi University. “There is an imbalance in the rural and urban employment scenario in India because of several factors, including industry concentrations in pockets. However, a job scheme for the urban poor will help tide over crisis such as the one we are in and counter reverse migration,” he said.

The panel also underlined that the poor and vulnerable workers in the unorganized sectors have been in distress specifically because of low levels of income and savings, lack of employment security, and access to government social protection.

The parliamentary committee also said that in the short to immediate term it is imperative to expand social assistance and public welfare programmes, both in the urban and rural areas, to provide relief and protection to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged strata of the society. Offering another round of income support to the poor to compensate for loss of employment would go a long way in mitigating their woes.

It, however, said short-term measures alone would not be adequate to counter the adverse economic effects of covid-19 and the “government has to embark upon long-term radical reorientation of the growth strategy to make the growth process more employment intensive and inclusive by focusing on industries and activities that are critical for employment generation and job creation.”

The panel appreciated the government’s efforts on wage subsidy, giving ration to poor during the pandemic, the role of pension schemes for informal workers, and unveiling several schemes under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat initiative. However, it asked the government, especially the labour ministry, to update unemployment data. It also pulled up the government for not having official data on impact of covid-19 on employment and asked why the annual period labour force survey (PLFS) for 2020-21 is not ready even after two waves of the covid-19 pandemic.

“The committee is not convinced with the reasoning adduced by the ministry for such inordinate delay in publication of PLFS reports, especially when it becomes imperative to gauge the rate of unemployment in the country because of the covid-19 pandemic,” the committee said.

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