Despite peak harvesting season in October, rural India faces labour shortage

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Tomato farmers in Karnataka. Photo courtesy/www.goonj.org

Jobs in rural India plunged in the month of October known for being the peak month for the harvesting of Kharif crops. While sowing of kharif crops, particularly paddy, is spread over four months, most of the crop is harvested in October.

According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), a think tank, employment under the government’s MGNREGS declined significantly in October. Till October 19 this year, the scheme had provided 5.85 crore person-days of employment compared to 13.8 crore person-days of employment during the full month of October 2019.

The employment rate in rural India was 39.8 per cent in September 2020, which was at the highest level since the lockdown began and was close to the pre-Covid level. However, rural India could not sustain an employment rate of 40 per cent or more.

The weekly employment rate had touched 39.9 per cent in the week ended September 6 but it is on a downward trajectory since then. In the week ended October 4, the rate was down to 39 per cent and then it slipped further to 38.8 per cent in the week ended October 11, and recovered to 39.5 per cent in the week ended October 18. 

The falling employment rate in rural India and the continued low employment rate in urban India are the weaknesses in India’s labour market recovery process, according to the Think Tank report. Also, the economic recovery is showing signs of stagnation after a decent recovery in the previous months.

After the major shock in April 2020, the recovery was smart in May and better in June. It continued well into July as well however it stalled in August and September. Now, it appears that the stagnation could extend or worsen in October, CMIE underlined.  During the past four years, India’s employment rate has fallen steadily each year as employment has been stagnant.

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