Between March 24 and June 30, 2020 about 60 lakh jobs were lost due to the lockdown: SP Mukherjee

AM Jigeesh New Delhi | Updated on October 12, 2021

Mukherjee explains the differences between household and establishment based surveys

Economist and statistician SP Mukherjee is behind framing the Centre’s labour policy. He is the chairman of the expert group on employment survey and the minimum wage. He was instrumental in the recent employment survey of establishments which caused an uproar in its claim that there has been a 29 per cent increase in the employment in establishments compared to the 2013 economic census. In an interview with BusinessLine, Mukherjee explained the differences between household and establishment based surveys. Excerpts:

Why weren’t the employment details gleaned from the Periodic Labour Force Surveys (PLFS)? Why was it important to hold employment surveys in establishments?

I try to make a distinction between employment and unemployment in terms of data required, analysis to be made and interpretation. If somebody wants to calculate the unemployment rate, or the employment rate or the worker population ratio, definitely one has to get the PLFS, which is fundamentally a household-based survey. Nothing short of a household survey will provide us any idea about the worker-population ratio or the unemployment rate. But supposing, if your interest is in the broad area or the domain of employment and to find out which sector of India’s economy has been providing the majority of workforce or has been demanding the largest number of workers, and which sector has been growing in terms of employment, then definitely it has to be an establishment-based survey.

NSSO surveys, payroll data of EPFO and ESIC can also give such data, right?

EPFO or ESIC do not capture the information about establishments with 10 or more workers. This survey covers establishments with more workers. The number 10 is a cut-off point. Both EPFO and ESIC cover data on enterprises. There are fundamental differences between enterprises and establishments. We have looked at data from establishments. When one looks at the economic census, it will cover all, irrespective of number of workers and it comes out also with data from directorial establishments. Establishment-based surveys will give operational and economic aspects of an establishment. Household based surveys cannot capture such information.

The NSSO offered population estimates for the country as a whole — urban and rural — which was falling short of the numbers quoted by the census. They are comparable. They are not identical. Estimates based on the sample survey will be comparable to the part of the economic census dealing with establishments with ten or more workers. In the report, I made a mention about employment growth of 29 per cent not growth rate. Growth rate refers to a time interval.

What will be the impact of Covid-19 on employment? How did you come to the conclusion that about 3.08 crore workers were engaged in establishments before March 24, 2020 the day when lockdown was started?

There would be varying ideas about what should be the period by which the impact of lockdown on employment is over. It is difficult to say. The impact of the pandemic is not yet completely over. Three dates we are referring to in the report on survey are March 24 and June 30, 2020 and April 30, 2021. Three tables say that between March 24 and June 30, 2020 about 60 lakh jobs were lost due to the lockdown. We had a question for the establishments on the number of workers employed in these establishments on these three dates. In April 2021, there was a marginal increase in employment. The industry somehow bounced back and added employees after June 30, 2020.

Published on October 12, 2021

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