The demand for MGNREGA jobs among senior citizens is coming down, despite still being higher than pre-pandemic levels. This is according to the data from the Ministry of Rural Development.

In FY24, which ended on March 31, 1.17 crore seniors (aged above 60) sought jobs under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005. In FY24, 14 per cent of the total MGNREGA workforce were seniors.

While this is 10 per cent less than the number of senior MGNREGA workers in FY23, it is still 7 per cent above the FY20 numbers. While the number of seniors who sought MGNREGA jobs has been rising since FY17, it peaked between FY20 and FY21, during the pandemic. In FY21 , 1.5 crore seniors were employed under MGNREGA. This was when India saw a lot of the urban population migrate to rural areas, owing to lockdown and unemployment.

However, the number came down by 1.7 per cent in FY22 and 11 per cent in FY23.

MGNREGA is a 2005 act, which promises to provide 100 days of paid employment to one member of every household in which its adult member volunteers to do unskilled manual work. This is to improve the livelihood security of people in rural areas. The jobs include cleaning canals and drains, tilling, ploughing and clearing weeds.

Kerala Leads

South Indian States have been dominating in terms of the proportion and absolute numbers of senior citizens employed in MGNREGA. Among them, Kerala leads. In Kerala, in FY24, out of 16.61 lakh total workers, 32.3 per cent were senior citizens.

Kerala is followed by Telangana with 28.7 per cent of its MGNREGA workers being seniors in FY24. In Andhra Pradesh, it was 23.8 per cent, 21.4 per cent in West Bengal and 21.1 per cent in Tamil Nadu. Andhra Pradesh has had the highest number of senior MGNREGA workers since FY21.

Elaborating on possible reasons behind Kerala’s high proportion of senior workers, N Ramakantan, Director, Social Audit Society Kerala, said, “The life expectancy of people in Kerala is comparatively higher. That is one reason behind the high enrollment of senior citizens.” He added that the nuclear family system too may have contributed to this. “In that scenario, the senior citizens would need an additional income other than their welfare pension. MGNREGA helps them with it, without having to travel much,” he added.

The writer is an intern with businessline