Task Force on Improving Employment Data

Job creation, employment and unemployment have been important subjects of debate in India. However, recently, this debate has been taking place in a vacuum. The available estimates are either out-dated or based on surveys with design flaws that render them unsuitable for inferring nationwide employment level.

Recognizing these facts, the Government of India appointed a Task Force for improving employment data in India on May 11, 2017 under the chairmanship of Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog.

The mandate of the task force included assessing existing data systems and sources on job creation, examining prospects for using any existing data sources to obtain quick estimates of jobs created in recent years and recommending mechanisms for future data collection so as to place employment estimates on sound footing.

Main Recommendation of this Task Force:

The task force said that a central facility on the lines of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) should be created to collate data concerning employment from different ministries.

Among other things, it has suggested that household survey, which is currently held every five years, should be conducted on an annual basis.

The task force further suggested that Annual Survey of Industries (ASI) should be discontinued and replaced by annual enterprise survey using enterprises registered with the GSTN as the sample frame. There are an estimated 80 lakh indirect taxpayers registered on the GSTN.

The task force also recommended that the use of technology be enhanced to reduce the time taken in datacollection and processing.

The task force noted that the data of Employee Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), Employee State Insurance (ESI) and National Pension Scheme (NPS) should be used to formulate a better picture of employment scenario.

The relevant ministries and departments can continue to own data with no data used without their permission.

Within India, RBI operates an advanced system of financial data collection, warehousing and dissemination of information.

The task force also stressed on the need to allocate additional financial and human resources to data collection activity as the support for this activity has dwindled over time.

It is recommended that MoSPI, MoLE and other ministries collecting employment data work together to eliminate such duplication and overlaps.

The task force also pointed out that there is also a need of plausible definition of formal employment.

The traditional Employment-Unemployment Surveys carried out by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) every five years must be scrapped. The last such survey was carried out in 2011-12 and the one due in 2016-17 was skipped.

Instead, a new periodic labour force survey (the first one has already begun this April) will be conducted annually to provide estimates of labour force, employment, unemployment, nature of employment and industry. To get more frequent employment trends data, an urban module of this survey will be updated every quarter.

A time use survey should also be conducted at three-year intervals to provide data on the time spent in various occupations and non-market activities. If the inputs are implemented, India will be able to generate reliable estimates of a number of critical variables for informed policy making.