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Fresh data from the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) accessed by Mint shows that the count of contributing establishments dropped by over 30,800 in October from September, marking the first drop since April, when India was under a full lockdown. The number of individual provident fund (PF) contributors also fell by 1.8 million last month.

The decline suggests that the after effects of our covid crisis are yet to play out fully, with the private sector not quite done with payroll compression, even as various other signs emerge of the Indian economy staging a festive season recovery of sorts. A raft of indicators, from tax revenues to order-book index readings, have lately exhibited marked improvement. If corporate profits in this fiscal year’s second quarter saw big jumps, it was chiefly on account of the battles waged against fixed costs, including salary bills. Simultaneous job losses across business sectors could have a significant second-order impact on the overall demand for goods and services in India. Let’s hope the government’s revival of a PF subsidy scheme for new recruits at low salaries helps stem the EPFO enrolment slide.

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