SOME time back National Sample Survey Organisation released report of its 66th Round. The report highlights a very serious issue and that is, deteriorating situation of labour or in other words casualisation of labour. National Sample Survey Organisation periodically brings out data based on scientifically conducted sample surveys, representing whole economy. Report presents situation of employment and unemployment. According to this report, casual workers increased by 219 lakhs between 2004-05 and 2009-10. On the other hand self-employed workers, mostly farmers, small and cottage industrialists and merchants have shown a decrease in their number by 251 lakhs. This increase in number of casual labour is much higher than the previous rounds.
Number of regular salaried workers increased by only 58 lakh between 2004-05 and 2009-10; which is less than half of increase in salaried workers between 1999-00 and 2004-05. We find that casual labour as a percentage of total workforce increased to 38.6 per cent in rural areas and 17.5per cent in urban areas in 2009-10. This was only 35.0 per cent and 15.1 per cent in rural and urban areas respectively in 2004-05. It is noticeable that in even in 1993-94 casual labour constituted 35.6 per cent and 18.3 per cent in rural and urban areas respectively. Thus there is a marginal decline in casual labour between 1993-94 and 2004-05 in urban areas but that trend has also reversed in 2009-10. Needless to say that casualisation of labour implies decline in incomes of workers.
Meaning of Casual Employment
Casual labour is the labour where availability of work is not stable or continuous, that is there is no job security. Employment under this category is called inferior because wages under this kind of employment is very little as compared to salaried workers. They work under inhuman conditions and wages are not even subsistence. They do not have any perks even for the name sake.
On the other hand, salaried labour gets relatively better salaries and perks like bonus, accommodation or house rent, medical allowance or free medical aid, telephone, transport allowance etc. These facilities are either provided free of cost or expenditure made is reimbursed.
Low Wages of Casual Labour
NSSO categorises three types of wage earners. Wages of casual labour are low is evident from the fact that wages of salaried workers in rural areas was Rs 232 per day while in urban areas it is Rs 365 per day; Casual labour hired by the private sector is only Rs 93 and Rs 122 for rural and urban areas respectively. Labour hired for public (government) works was Rs 98 and Rs 86 for males and females respectively. Wages for labour hired for MNREGA was only Rs 91 and Rs 87 for males and females respectively.
Advocates of globalisation and new economic policy are not prepared to believe that this policy could be wrong. They always try to boast of high rate of economic growth. It may be important to note that maximum deterioration in the quality of employment took place during the period when rate of growth was highest. Rate of growth of GDP accelerated to be eight to nine per cent between 2004-05 and 2009-10 and this is the period during which pace of casualisation was higher than the earlier period. Rather casual employment had dropped earlier. Normally employment should increase with economic growth. There is unanimity among economists that economic growth being experienced today is actually jobless growth because growth of employment is not commensurate with GDP growth. Whatever growth in employment has been there was limited to growth of casual labour at the cost of self-employment. Not only that employment is not growing fast, employment has been shifting from regular and self-employment. In fact, period between 2004-05 and 2009-10 has been a period of growth of low paid jobs, in this time period increased by low paid casual employment. If we look at the composition of GDP over the years, we get the answer. We understand that more than half been constantly declining and has come to a low of only 14.4 per cent. Whereas other sectors of the economy have been growing at the rate of 8 to 12 per cent agriculture is lagging behind with zero to three per cent growth rate. Growth has been limited to only a few sectors especially in the corporate entities. Even in corporate sector only a limited number is engaged in high end jobs and rest are getting low paid jobs of guards, drivers, cleaners etc and that too as a contract labour.
In addition it is also worth noting that these casual workers do not work over the year. Rural Employment Guarantee Programme also does not envisage employment for only 100 days. Therefore, one can conclude that casual workers normally work not more than one-third of the year. Scheme has also received only 100 days. On the other hand regular salaried workers get employment round the year. Thus casual workers are at disadvantage not only due to low wages, they are generally out of employment for more than two third of the year
New economic policy is the main culprit
Increasing number of casual labour that is, increasing tendency towards irregular unemployment; and decline of self-employment is highly unfortunate. In fact, self-employment has been declining thanks to the new economic policy, agriculture, small and cottage industries and other sectors providing self-employment have been declining. Of late the government has started acquiring land forcibly from farmers and farmers are being pushed out from their traditional employment. Advocates of the new economic policy will have to concede that GDP based concept of economic growth is not of any use for the common man as it fails to improve the lives of the common man. We need to adopt people oriented economic policy to take masses out of poverty. Agriculture, small industries and other employment-generating sectors is the only way to prosperity of the majority of our countrymen.