Editorial

Domicile quotas will distort the labour market

| Updated on August 20, 2020 Published on August 20, 2020

States’ move to introduce job quotas for locals is bad in law, and amounts to poor economics

Madhya Pradesh has joined the bandwagon of States playing ‘sons of the soil’ politics, by reserving government jobs for locals. Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have resolved to reserve jobs in both the government and private sectors, while Karnataka has said that it is in the process of preparing a law in this regard. Telangana has decided to reserve 80 per cent of semi-skilled jobs and 60 per cent of skilled jobs for locals, while Andhra Pradesh and Haryana have decided to set aside 75 per cent by way of such quotas. The laws passed by these States could face a legal challenge for going against Article 19 (d) and (e) of the Constitution. The first spells out that all citizens shall have the right to “move freely throughout the territory of India” while the second elaborates on the same to say that they can “reside or settle in any part of the territory of India”. This strain of parochial politics has reared its head from time to time. Its origins can be traced back to the politics of the Shiv Sena in the 1960s, which initially targeted ‘South Indians’ for monopolising white-collar jobs, and later the blue-collar workforce from northern States. Ironically, the Shiv Sena has of late moved away from ‘Marathi manoos’ mobilisation, while other States are playing the domicile card; Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have mercifully not followed up on quota promises for locals. Even so, such rhetoric can distort the labour market, particularly when local fringe groups create law and order complications. Domicile quotas can raise costs and inefficiencies in labour-receiving States, exerting short-term pressure on labour-supplying States to create productive capacities. As for meeting the challenge of joblessness, by many accounts at a four-decade-high, a more inclusive, employment-centred model of growth is the need of the hour, as is an education and skilling ecosystem which produces “job-ready” workers. Domicile quotas are a means to divert attention from this failure.

Oddly enough, both the labour-supplying States as well as the receiving ones have played the domicile card, responding to the unease over unemployment and a struggling economy. In the first case, the effort is to win over psychologically scarred migrants — many of them politically disenfranchised — who have fled the metros to return ‘home’ in the wake of Covid. If the intent is to prevent forced migration, this should be addressed through sustained economic development initiatives.

According to the Economic Survey (2016-17) and other studies, migrants account for over 20-30 per cent of the workforce, or more than 100 million. The reality is that workers go to where jobs are available and labour is needed because locals are either unavailable or unwilling to do these jobs. Therefore, the concept of “outsiders snatching jobs from locals”, while an easy political sell, does not reflect reality. Shackling the individual rights of workers amounts to poor economics, besides creating conditions for social and economic instability.

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Published on August 20, 2020
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