Give jobs data faster every quarter: Finance ministry to statistics ministry

NEW DELHI: The finance ministry has asked the statistics ministry to put in place a quarterly employment data mechanism, which should be released with a month’s lag to help in policymaking.
The lack of timely jobs data is a stumbling block to data-driven policy formulation. “A timely employment data is a crucial missing link,” a source familiar with the deliberations told TOI. The issues have been taken up by the finance ministry’s economic division with the ministry of statistics as part of efforts to fill a major gap that currently exists.
At present, the quarterly jobs data comes with a lag of around 45 days under the periodic labour force surveys (PLFS). The PLFS was started in 2017 to give a better picture of the employment scenario. But this too is now found to be inadequate as the time lag creates roadblocks. Sources pointed to the recent release of the annual PLFS for 2019-20. “How can you make policies based on data which is one-year old?” said a source.

The pandemic has put the spotlight on jobs and authorities are scrambling for real-time data to assess the situation on the ground. Private surveys carried out have shown that the unemployment situation had reached record highs during the pandemic.
The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), a private economic data provider, has said that the economic recovery from the pandemic will not be able to get the country’s GDP where it was before the shock even by the end of March 2022.
“The loss from where the earlier growth trajectory could have taken India has also widened compared to earlier expectations. The labour participation rate remains 2.7 percentage points lower than its pre-Covid levels. The employment rate remains 3.3 percentage points lower than the pre-Covid levels,” CMIE MD & CEO Mahesh Vyas said in a recent note. The government is confident that growth will be robust in 2021-22, which should lead to improvement in the jobs space.
A panel headed by the former NITI Aayog vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya had submitted a report, calling for arevamp of the country’s jobs data and had backed timely release of such numbers to aid policymaking. While the finance ministry is seeking that the mechanism be put in place immediately, the statistics ministry has been slow to respond to the issue, with a section raising several issues.
The government also uses the payroll data of EPFO and others. But, experts have for long argued for timely and credible jobs data to get a better picture of the jobs situation in the economy and devising policies to create employment and increase women labour force participation.

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Author: Shirley