The lure of 10 million jobs a year (On agri sector)

Source: Down to Earth

Relevance: issues with creation of employment opportunities in farm sector

Synopsis: There is a question over capacity of Agriculture sector to absorb more workforce in India. As per the latest data of the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) increasing number of people are joining agriculture for employment, in a shift from non-farm sectors like manufacturing and other informal jobs

Context

The CMIE analysis says that the share of the agriculture sector in total employment has increased to 45.6% in 2019-20, from 42.5% in 2018-19.

According to the report, the economic collapse due to the impact of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has led to huge losses in jobs in non-agricultural informal sectors.

Migrating people from farm to non-farm sectors has been the key strategy of India to provide livelihoods to the largely informal workforce. So, this report comes as a shocker.

What does this indicate?

It is a sign of distress in the labour market where non-agricultural sectors are unable to provide employment and labour is forced to shift to agriculture, i.e. an involuntary reverse migration from “factories to farms”.

It’s also a problem because the sector has an average wage of Rs 291 per day

Can agriculture still create jobs?
  • In 1999, the govt set up a Task Force on Employment Opportunities under Montek Singh Ahluwalia to suggest ways to achieve 10 million jobs a year. Ahluwalia submitted the report in 2001. It gave the verdict that in the future, agriculture would not be a job creator anymore.
  • In 2002, another task force, called the Special Group on Targeting Ten Million Employment Opportunities per year, was set up. It concluded that the agricultural sector was a ‘gold mine’, with the potential to create at least 11 million jobs over five years. It emphasised horticulture, floriculture, agroforestry, minor irrigation and watersheds among others as labour-intensive, high-value areas. These are the same ways that the present govt is focusing on doubling farmers’ income.

Conclusion

The debate over farm vs non-farm needs a fresh look. Jobless growth is happening, but the farm sector has beaten this trend in recent years. It shows that agriculture might not have lost all its potential. It just needs a new political deal to revive.

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