Changes in the Structure of Employment in Rural Areas

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K. Hanumantha Rao

(i) To study the emerging structural characteristics of the labour market in rural areas; (ii) To examine the levels of and trends in employment and unemployment in the last three decades; (iii) To understand the inter-relationships among economic growth-employment/unemployment and wages, and (iv) To suggest policy and programme interventions on the basis of (i) to (iii).

The reference period of the study covering almost 25 years (1971 to 1993-94) include a few epochs of agricultural and rural development viz., green revolution and post-green revolution phases, era of poverty alleviation programmes and the early phase of die new economic policy interventions. Provision of gainful employment on a sustainable basis to the vast number of assetless workforce and small landholders in rural India is one of the best means to improve the livelihood systems of the people. An understanding of the structure of labour market(s) in rural India and the factors influencing the functioning of the markets is an essential pre- requisite in the design of public interventions. The main purpose of this study is to analyse the changes that had taken place in the rural labour markets since the advent of green revolution till the introduction of the "New Economic Policy". The main thrust of data analysis was to trace the inter-relationships among economic growth-employment-wages with special reference to the hard core poverty regions.

The main databases for this study, include Population Census Report, Rural Labour Enquiry Reports and the Quinquennial Survey data of NSSO on "Employment and Unemployment". Findings
    The changes in the labour markets Of rural India have been influenced by the structural changes occurring in eight states viz., Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh. Maharashtra, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal since then,, account for over 70 per cent of the population and workforce. Furthermore, over 80 par cent of rural poor who inhabit these states may also have contributed to the qualitative changes in the labour markets. Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal had been experiencing acceleration in die growth of workforce. The number of female workers grew faster than that of male workers in Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamill Nadu. These trends indicate feminisation of rural labour markets.

    The last few decades witnessed a remarkable rise in the number of labour households and more so the agricultural labour households, thus pushing the supply curve of labour towards right. The deterioration in levels of living of these labour households is expected due to the falling share of agriculture in the state domestic product unless compensated for by productivity rise in agriculture. Assam, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan are the states where these changes have been found to be remarkable. It is to be noted that in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Rajasthan, both the shares of labour and agricultural labour households have been on the decline thereby indicating a growing number of self and/or regular employed. The data of NSSO for the vears 1987-88 and 1993-94 on landlessness point out that the phenomenon of landlessness has considerably reduced in several states, which is a welcome sign from the view-point of unemployment and poverty eradication.

    One of the disturbing characteristics of Indian (rural) labour markets is high prevalence of child labour and there was heavy concentration of child workers in Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa, in most of these states the incidence of poverty was also rather high. A soothing factor is that not only the 'child labour' problem has been waning but also the...
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