Rural employment strategies for India


The unprecedented commitment of the present Government of India to seriously address the need for employment generation is a propitious opportunity to implement strategies for generating full employment in the country. This report, which builds upon work done by the International Commission on Peace & Food in the early 1990s, confirms the potential to generate sufficient employment opportunities for all new entrants to the workforce as well as to absorb the current numbers of unemployed and underemployed. It includes strategies and policy recommendations designed to maximize the effectiveness of the Government's recently proposed initiatives for employment generation and rural prosperity. Implementation of these recommendations will be sufficient to generate 100 million additional employment and self-employment opportunities.

While many formal studies have been prepared to assess the growth and employment potential in India' formal private sector, less attention has been given to the conditions and strategies to promote rapid expansion and job creation in the rural and informal sectors. This report focuses on strategies to increase employment opportunities in India's informal sector, with emphasis on agriculture, agro-industry, rural services and related vocations. The report consists of three parts: an overview of employment in India, a business plan containing specific recommendations for implement┬Čation, and a detailed discussion of employment opportunities and strategies in agriculture.

The major findings and recommendations can be summarized as follows:

1. The Indian economy is already generating approximately seven million employment and self-employment opportunities per annum, almost all of them in the informal sector, but in there is a serious lack of accurate information on the types and numbers of these jobs. The most effective strategy for employment generation will be to provide the missing links and policy measures needed to accelerate this natural process of employment generation.

2. There is enormous scope for raising the productivity of Indian agriculture, doubling crop yields and farm incomes, and generating significant growth in demand for farm labour. The report present evidence to demonstrate that improving plant nutrition through micronutrient analysis and improving irrigation through deep chiselling of soil can result in a tripling of crop yields.

3. Rising rural incomes consequent to higher productivity will unleash a multiplier effect, increasing demand for farm and non-farm products and services, thereby stimulating rapid growth of employment opportunities in other sectors.

4. Indian agriculture is constrained by weak linkages between agricultural training and extension, crop production, credit, processing, marketing, and insurance. The report presents an integrated strategy for bringing together all these elements in a synergistic manner by

  • Establishment of village-based Farm Schools to demonstrate and impart advanced technology to farmers on their own lands.
  • Establishment of a network of sophisticated soil test laboratories capable of high volume precision analysis of 13 essential plant nutrients coupled with development of expert computer systems to interpret soil test results and recommend individualized packages of cultivation practices for each crop, location and soil profile.
  • Establishment of Rural Information Centres to act as a medium for transmission of soil test data and recommended practices, access to current input and market prices, and other essential information for upgrading agriculture.
  • Policy and legal measures to encourage contract farming arrangements between agri-business firms and self-help groups in order to increase small farmers' access to advanced technology, quality inputs, bank credit, processing, marketing and crop insurance.
  • Measures to strengthen farm credit and insurance programmes, including creation of linkages between crop insurance, crop loans, and farm school training to encourage farmers who seek credit and crop insurance to adopt improved cultivation practices.

5. In order to ensure ready markets for the crops that are produced, the report focuses on the potential for linking crop production with huge untapped markets and specific agro-industries, including energy plantations to fuel biomass power plants, bio-diesel from jathropa, ethanol from sugarcane and sugar-beet, edible oil from Paradise Tree, horticulture crops and cotton.

6. The report argues that the India labour force suffers from a severe shortage of employable skills at all levels and that intensive development of vocational skills will act as a powerful stimulus for employment and self-employment generation. In addition to Farm Schools to impart advanced skills in production agriculture, the report recommends establishing a network of government-certified, rural vocational institutes providing training and certification in hundreds of vocational skills not covered by the ITIs. In order to offset the shortage of qualified trainers and the costs of replicating institutions throughout the country, the report advocates creation of a national network of 'Job Shops' linked to the Rural Information Centres and offering televised multimedia training programmes and computerized vocational training programmes.

7. The report recommends that the National Commission on Farmers arrange for employment surveys to provide accurate information on the growing demand for different occupational categories, the natural rate of employment generation by category and skill level, and other issues required to promote full employment in the country.

PART I - OVERVIEW OF EMPLOYMENT IN INDIA

Profile of the Indian Workforce

  • Workforce: Although accurate measures of employment and unemployment are difficult in India's largely informal economy, the current labour force consists of approximately 400 million men and women.
  • Growth in Labour Force: It is estimated that the work force is currently growing by 7 million persons per year.
  • Sector-wise: Of these, about 56% are engaged in agriculture as their primary occupation which is down from 65% in the early 1990s. Another 13% are engaged in manufacturing and the balance are employed in the service sector, which has grown from 25% to 32% of total employment over the past two decades.
  • Organized vs. Unorganized: The organized sector provides less than 8% of the total jobs, about 3% in private firms and 5% in the public sector. The informal/unorganized sector is provides the other 92%.
  • Skills: Only 6-8% of India's workforce has received formal training in vocational skills, compared with 60% or more in developed and most rapidly developing countries.
  • Unemployment: Depending on the survey measure applied, unemployment is estimated to range between 25 and 35 million. Youth unemployment is 13%, but reaches a high of 35% in Kerala. Unemployment as a percentage of the workforce fell in the 1980s and rose slightly in the 1990s. Authoritative published data was not available to indicate trends after 2001-2.
  • Migration: According to sample survey estimates, approximately 27% of India's population are migrants, including those who move from one rural or urban area to another or between rural and urban areas. Approximately 57% of urban male migration is for seeking better employment opportunities. The net migration from rural to urban areas is approximately 2 million per annum, of which about 1 million may be job seekers.

Observations about Employment in India

Several significant conclusions can be drawn from this summary data:

1. High rate of 'natural' employment generation: In spite of a large influx of youth into the workforce, unemployment is not rising dramatically. This indicates that the Indian economy is generating a very large number of additional employment opportunities by natural processes that are not well documented or understood. An understanding of these processes is will assist the formulation of effective strategies to accelerate employment generation and eliminate the remainder of unemployment and underemployment in the economy. If the unconscious process of employment generation can achieve this much, surely a conscious understanding and application can accomplish far higher rates of job growth.

2. Urban employment: Since high rates of urban unemployment would almost invariably lead to rising discontent and violence, the relative stability of India's urban environment suggests that the urban economy is generating sufficient employment opportunities to absorb most new entrants and migrants from rural areas.

3. Mismatch between Education & Employment: While the number of employment opportunities is rising more or less as required to keep pace with the growth of the workforce, the type and quality of these opportunities does not match the expectations of many educated job seekers, which reflects inadequacies both in the type of employment generated and type of education being imparted to youth. Ironically, despite the surging number of graduates, many firms report difficulty in recruiting educated persons with the required work capabilities to meet the growth in demand for business process outsourcing, automotive component production and many other fields.

4. Gap in Occupational Skills: At the other end of the labour spectrum, it is increasingly difficult to obtain workers with basic skills in carpentry, masonry, electricals, mechanics, and many other trades. Although India operates a large vocational training system, it provides training to less than 2 million persons annually, which is grossly insufficient to impart skills to the 7 million new job entrants as well as the huge number of current unskilled workers. Absence of reliable information on the actual growth in employment by specific occupational categories makes it difficult to determine either the number of jobs being created in each field or the unsatisfied demand for various types of skills.

5. Casualization of the workforce: Evidence of an increase in casual and migratory employment reflects a deterioration in the quality of jobs in rural areas as well as rising expectations of the workforce that impels increasing numbers to abandon traditional occupations in search of better employment opportunities.

6. Agricultural Employment: While the percentage of the workforce employed in agriculture is declining, total employment in this sector continues to rise, though at significantly slower rates than in the past. A reduction in the proportion of the population employed in the primary sector is a natural and inevitable trend that is spurred by rising expectations and changing attitudes as much as by rising levels of farm productivity and mechanization. However, this does not mean that the potential for employment in this sector is being fully exploited. The findings of this report indicate that in the short term, strategic initiatives to modernize and diversify Indian agriculture can generate employment opportunities for very large numbers of people, thereby providing time for the more gradual expansion of employment potentials in other sectors.

7. Surging Service Sector: The traditional path of economic development was a progression from agriculture to manufacturing to services. India's recent success in IT and IT-enabled services is only one indication that this formula need not necessarily apply in the context of today's global economy where the demand for services internationally can rapidly expand employment opportunities domestically. In addition, changing social expectations within the country are stimulating rapid growth in demand for services that become prevalent in advanced industrial countries at a much later stage in their development, as indicated by the proliferation of courier companies, Xerox shops, Internet cafes, fast food restaurants and retail boutiques. The rampant clamour for education at all levels, surging demand for health care services, telecommunications, media, entertainment, and financial services are other expressions of this phenomenon. The publication of six English dailies and six Kannada dailies in the city of Bangalore is only one reflection of this wider trend. Research is required to more carefully document growth of the service sector, particularly its informal portion, to assess the potential demand and most effective strategies for accelerating growth of employment. These trends suggest that rural India has the opportunity to leapfrog over the traditional path to development, moving directly from agriculture into services.

Theoretical Basis for Full Employment

The International Commission on Peace and Food, in its report entitled Uncommon Opportunities: Agenda for Peace & Equitable Development, examined the process of employment generation in society and concluded that full employment was a realistic and achievable goal for all countries in the foreseeable future. It observed that efforts to achieve full employment are constrained by a vague sense of helplessness or inevitability based on the erroneous perception that the number of employment opportunities generated in society is determined by forces that are either beyond the control of government and public initiative or too complex, costly and difficult to manage without severe adverse affects on the economy. Therefore, it may be useful to examine some of the major factors that presently limit the creation of new employment opportunities and the practical scope for action at these specific points.

Economically, employment generation is determined by how fully and productively society utilizes the material, technological, organizational and human resources at its disposal. The more productive the society is, the greater the quality and efficiency with which it produces goods and services, the greater the demand for those goods and services in the marketplace, the more employment opportunities and purchasing power created. This increased purchasing power then acts as an additional stimulus to the creation of new demand and employment opportunities.

Although early economists perceived that resources were limited, we now know that the potential for enhancing the productivity of resources is not. The Commission's report points out that the productivity of resources is the result of human resourcefulness. Since no society can or does fully exhaust its potentials for enhancing social productivity, the potential for employment generation is unlimited. Land, water and minerals may be limited, but the scope for increasing their productivity is not. Land is limited in India, but the scope for raising farm yields is not.

If this is the case for purely material resources, how much more true is it of technology, organization, knowledge, skill and other less tangible society resources? The enhancement in computer performance over the past 35 years according to Moore's Law is only one dramatic instance of a general truth about technological productivity in all fields. While the power of computers keeps increasing, the cost of producing them keeps falling because of technological developments that reduce their size, material consumption and labour inputs.

Technology alone does not result in human development. The application of technology through innovative social organizations has been the chief cause for the phenomenal gains of the past century. It was not the invention of the automobile but rather the innovation of a new organization of mass production by assembly line that enabled Henry Ford to transform the car from a luxury of the idle rich into a necessity for middle and working class families. It was not the invention of the computer, but the innovation of a new organization for electronic exchange of information in a standardized format that converted the Internet from the medium of academics and military planners into the most powerful communication tool in history and led to the emergence of the World Wide Web as a global library and global marketplace. India's dairy cooperatives, micro-finance self-help groups, STD booths, export processing zones, technology parks, and private computer training centres are all examples of organizational innovations that have stimulate development and create jobs.

What is true of technological and organizational resources is even more true for other social and human resources. Information is a resource that improves the quality of decision-making and makes possible the tapping of new opportunities. The quantity, quality and speed of all types of information exchange is multiplying exponentially. Through the enhancement of skills, knowledge and attitudes, the productivity of the human resource is growing by leaps and bounds. The USA, which awarded only a single PhD in 1880, now awards for than 35,000 annually. India produces more software engineers than the USA. Tamil Nadu, which had less than a dozen engineering colleges in 1980, has more than 200 today. Five lakh Indians are taking software training courses every year. Tens of thousands of four and five year old Indian children are surfing the internet or playing chess like future grandmasters. At the same time 45 per cent of the Indian population is still illitreate, only 60 per cent of 11-14 year olds are enrolled in school, two-thirds of children drop out before completing 10th Standard, and only five per cent of the workforce in the 20-24 age category have undergone formal vocational training, compared to 28 per cent in Mexico and 96 per cent in Korea. There is enormous scope for enhancing the knowledge and skills of India's workforce.

If the technological, organization and human potentials are unlimited, what is it that determines the actual extent to which a society develops these potentials? It is the awakening of the society. Socially, employment generation is determined by the aspirations of people, by rising expectations, by the urge to achieve and enjoy more. The higher the aspirations of society that actively yearn for fulfilment, the greater the energy and activity of the society and the greater the potential for employment generation. Government does not create jobs. No government can create and sustain full employment primarily by means of programmes. What government can and should do is to help awaken the people to the opportunities for higher accomplishment and to formulate policies and programmes that will help to release the initiative and support the efforts of the population for its own upliftment.

Social Factors Responsible for Employment Generation

Society progresses by the development of new activities and their gradual integration with all other existing strands of the social fabric. Therefore, employment generation is not so much a question of finding out where to engage people in work, as it is how to stimulate the natural growth of the factors that result in job creation. These factors are innumerable and their interactions are very complex. They include, for example,

  • New products - motor vehicles, cell phones, cut flowers, designer clothes
  • New services - Xerox, courier, yellow pages, Internet cafes, credit cards, neighborhood newspapers, various insurance products
  • Growth in domestic demand - energy, motorcycles, cars, tourism, pharma, health care, insurance, financial services
  • Growth in export demand - textiles, software, automotive components, mangoes, grapes, fish
  • Technological innovation - Internet, mobile phones
  • Higher quality &/or productivity - automotive and farm exports
  • Organizational innovation - STD booths, World Wide Web, Internet cafe
  • Higher skills - software, BPO, journalism, sales & marketing
  • Better access to information - Internet job sites, E-choupals
  • Increased speed - money flows, transport, communication, decision-making
  • Legislation & law enforcement - e.g. safety and environmental regulations
  • Administrative responsiveness - speed, transparency, less red-tape
  • Environment/health consciousness - bottled water, recycling, organic foods
  • Change of attitudes - regarding consumption, investment, entrepreneurship

Approaches to Accelerate Employment Generation

There are three broad approaches can be adopted to stimulate greater employment generation:

Expand existing activities

Introduce measures to stimulate more rapid proliferation of existing activities that are already growing rapidly, such as nursery schools, tutorial institutes, English language teaching, etc.

Adopt activities prevalent in other countries which have not yet come to India

Examples of new activities that have recently been adopted by India include credit rating agencies for businesses and individuals, collection agencies, trade shows, network marketing, health clinics, etc.

Promote culturally compatible activities based on Indian environment

Examples include mini-power plants, rural information centres, contract farming agencies, STD booths, chit funds, marriage halls, etc.

Several different modes of action can be adopted to stimulate these activities:

  • Increase access to credit
  • Provide incentives for new initiatives
  • Strengthen or enforce legislation
  • Impart training
  • Use insurance as a stimulus
  • Publicize opportunities in the media

The recommendations contained in this report encompass all three broad approaches and utilizes all the modes of action listed above.

Prosperity 2000

Development of agriculture is critically important for ensuring food and nutritional security for the hundreds of millions of people that still live below the poverty line, for raising rural incomes and generating employment opportunities, and for stimulating industrialization and overall economic development of the country. Raising the productivity of irrigated and rain-fed agriculture, combined with rainwater harvesting and water conservation techniquesrtunitntease access recomooperatady markets fen agriculturia prodogy throuof linkagon witc agro-industrion cng dramaticafor reing rural inco,can generaof millions d non-farm and non-fang employment opportunitieee trcmulate poveres ans othenwas a Prosperiho mloymens throughoat rural Inrce.

Prosperity 2nt, A-Br busineCllil poumnt, AgriculturFo-finanCorperioratity for tnt Government Maer asns aon, and a syion Pe coroarryted If tMin ot'sing Service societp> AlthouRsate 1cre foies we smocnerated in the 2 UnratiBudgetted If thngthFo-finanMAdminwateDr. Manmoe thSesthine, fars, veivity ofasationse h2>Prosperity 2n a stratent wn> Sefor implemedure.

Tns usment of ted h2>Prosperity 2nt, < a stratent wth tg directnd util in agriculture aozen engted toiourse-nd farm incoies and purchasing po,can generaon additiond non-fang employment opportunitiees and stimulang rural industrialization ato servicen. Thent woued iurf an increahe demand fen agriculturia pronents, manufacratse goods and servicns throughout tal economob creating a multiplier effaat than geners of jobs in other sectore. T e specifrt foing on tha stratent wonfor raisid non-farm productivity afoinwaorkingoseruof linkagon wiro-indusput and marsogy through innovatia2>Approaches ti>The orgalization of tng rurhe econoce.

examined the curreng levels o; Foal consumption astuilitant nutritiamoising the Indian populat-at-ry lares and jeodteaid growth in demaes that wouat resuet from tir graduhirease ll isting Standkets forecro,avegetmeraothod suion ass daiia proneent. The actlyuhirease ng demand forecroods avegetmerao80, hngh earot mateaICPF'thnd jeodration.

Proffecw The fple thIf the technologiput and market potentialecedualified in to irinormal sythe remon" id200 todaTt the scope fod improvion-farm productivity, the potential fod improviof linkagon wirt processiro-industriety and the scope fstuilitahe enhancemenacts te gruch aherefion. However,eand organizationnd mechsmh is required es fultapops these potentiula need b The-/i>examined in te slient of the curreroofile of government and privang agencied in tic developmert proclly. In additioweula need takture iner aunmen, changial ernerial conditiole thow.onup of new opportunitent and preseof ncge hen aoths e spctlyue, thirease es internatioing energrervices ase the increasihe opportunities f - textarm expords aftte the innlage ofott, as J, mlitaty 5ove.

Tnd speed of a natdia'c developmeon ig directnd relates ti>The quantype and quality of vocational skiles psinepted croo's workforaTt tis wide. Thenlares ahe higher tnd quality of vocational ski, of thes aftte the growth ahe more Prosariouf the socieon.

Tot avaitability of employable skilaw issome of the majis deterauranlt oowp alrmarion new job seekThe fpof employmenp> Tor verowpng leity of employable skilnd makof the search red woow much mond difficies. at reds in the maron" vaome of tew job seenesrtuddulus to the costs on emplctors thmusmeal trion nin recrgnet frscrt maeon.

Of thes1654hat aof governmerunthe I (Stmulatf governms)ies yab2620hat are privenp> Tg, tots creatirk cctivity ps thehe I aw 6.28ive l. Mosment ofiides trainire is crodteant ig clro frstyleies in the dium 1red tery yodultomaing coureon.

Apoteedsurshge vocational trainies every yons itmul-runteo inteisurcesd ofis widdefew ination oe appling coursiide awakena. It includen agricultu,zen engineerion ain othil pxpresstotsubjeodi, of tg, tothe numbas receeriew jnd relates trainire ch abou7ive laon per annues whiat stientrepresennd on14%ion of new entrants to the workforre.

T unlicupations ch the existin2>Appronts ge vocational trainies have behe he slimined in tPy plainial Commissich Repome of tTaskour Fowonfte Employmeon Opportunit (er 2)lex. They incling datpling coursch res whiin there abi ti ng dem,the shortage s Equity onstrainfeqricy,cts inadeurate asnrucculturet andof reliabtarvestrre.

there iste gruuvertthe need fhe shn ped vocational training programkena. ew job seekTon ctakturs on their ome tige and on their op Peace a that relatlverowphe cion. In additio> there ilsothe need fofis wThenlarty of vocationng coursch rng those wat are alreaon employbthoutekeed be brgthen or upgduce theit skills to keep pace win, changihe nsent and tur rather irlth cpowet opportunities.

Tus lack ed vocational trainioe appsion at all levelet frth bass, mechaional skills needue fopgeneratins andps dainie reelopmend of jobs m, saurei>Administrction and arangemnts, includi e spctia neal occupatioy, such bookto kpaperse insurancgponentm, phaceuracticrk marketinnis leicgponento; Fohe servind araaperO, journaliss, ees. oe appsiolsot intois wThenlarty o" va-In latle skilal for enhancing thr performancfain workese nr different occupatsdly, such g. s dreceer,2ed industrig. safity, qualihe cont,ate lu actioe cont,and water conservat,ith rainwater harvest,ing enerer conservat,icindome for servlls, etc.

Thd overaly impormancfaor upgradiof vocational skills by Indit ie he sliminly in tas folisting telopment of tTaskour Fowonfte Employmeon Opportunitata:

<&ofot;To be summsence, thh rate ng growth ol econoon ve nbe to accelerFood, r, particuned in ted labour intensier sectoodf in there is a generus lack le skillmoising the work foenp> Tor examons of softwaro-indusp thisnsufficient t lumonstrad, whns can bk done by the Indiof youtn of tn slieal trainianupabilitiat are efdminly in the socieor:This requs to strengtkening of the existial training sysur7. Thoofile he public secdia had b Thesnruccultdety and conditiong creatpe forey fels outrends at a muchrge focalmore th that pres. Roofile hl private secdia had b Tly explatler applfith the reob sman resourcewhere bhree uslieineed beiwledin tedr4 age cctivigacrops thhe exenp> Tod vocational trainini>Poliia had ve resates tire ige hen a.&ofot;th.

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of India'roliam200 toion is nathe shortage te jobs? It aere shortage of employable ski. li>Provile skilln at. That wian creaon their oal employment and self-employment opportunitiesb

Tnt generatier of employment opportunities athis natured fofhe societakof thps corroneong growth er plawonffd cegibleil. Eor veon per bonnfor bragon wihim as asil plopment e, materion ain othhe nseps this naturan create employment opportunities fhimnd sion ain otties to mnon. Throliam2ns oe shortaummseennd onwheg on tha uccultons of sociees popments thps corroneong growth er employment opportunitieEunemployment aThroliam2ns he rnupabncing the potentins with the act. Ls liet the shortage ainwatnd fen agriculeted in Indiition is natnt uengt a question ll economocarctivile but rathaThroliam2ns nd arangemeon.

Nee percors are in the priva/unorganized sected. Thanufade shtes that the Indian economy vl liyment aes fules capable lb creatius thn additional employmeze opportunitiot necesyies to absoor theon employnt and underempmiteMind fedjunvestmions ch tha uccultons lashowte policies ang institutioon can accompliimeon.

TUnlimitNcupations 1994ops thhn employmenorce codcoverarth bashe huma slieaoenorce cinstitutturalguaentrs ners. At tee t, in the prserioppeomparvdecisibrary are ukmateaoenorgonsis a serioce codcocreatioNow,rartr chingf acald watein the prserins has beendectopted If tnt Government of Indty aision in the process bs beint convertre inlas.tNcuulturadiition ire eithes possibnmajissiumerabps thnt Governmedustrith tg directan creats all tot necesyite jobp> Whawhns cld do is nd mall tot necesyiedjunvestmions lashowte policies ang institutiove and slmloymensam2ns wiae solyleodteang progragic initiatives that wito accelerate the creation of new employment opportunitily in the socie p> The recommendatiogonsised in this repont are perceiveocan accompliin thobjeodivorre.

Tng growth d mate secdng of thn econodi>Depsion on the growth d and suppoithas recegnet frin other sectces ase tal extees of integratits betweee activitise nr differeer sectorUotel nbelow the growth fy Indian agricultuns has bebt seventre constrained ng theaknrocess or iof linkagon wiin othkeyier sectood, includiro-indus,fen agriculturng edumptuts, beer,2ed insurancg, marketing ate asnruccultast. a consciohe effres to strengthps theof linkagns cnd stimulang rapid growth in this sectat resaining ng rapid growth er employment opportunities. The recommendations contained in this repors aretommendys to provid for strengthis critieof linkaged fofhe quum jumpion in tng growth er employmeng ateet coze opportunities s. India'naturen-farm and non-faer sectors.

or implemcreative strategi(>ImpaII)esb on teccrural informaties on the potentswth fy Indian agricultu(>ImpaIII)esb<,oute of the clet The repo| . Th /a>ry.

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