State of Working India 2019


State of Working India (SWI), an annual publication of the Centre for Sustainable Employment, Azim Premji University, aims to provide an evidence-based overview of the quality and quantity of employment in the Indian economy.

SWI 2019, released in April this year, presents an update on the country’s job situation between 2016 and 2018. It followed closely the release of SWI 2018 in September last year, in order to “intervene in the debate over employment generation in time for the general elections in April and May 2019.” The report draws employment data from different sources, such as the now-defunct five-year Employment-Unemployment Surveys and the Periodic Labour Force Survey by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO); annual surveys by the Labour Bureau; and the Consumer Pyramids Survey of the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy, Mumbai.

SWI 2019 proposes a National Urban Employment Guarantee Programme for towns with a population of less than 1 million, which would provide guaranteed employment to residents, improve the quality of infrastructure and services, give skills training to the youth, and strengthen urban local bodies.

The report also proposes a Universal Basic Services Programme that would fill vacancies and eliminate shortfalls in the areas of public health, education and housing. The report underlines the need for an industry-related policy that would ensure a bigger role of the state to revive employment in the manufacturing sector, and a fiscal policy that could help alleviate the job crisis through employment programmes.


  1. The five-year Employment-Unemployment Surveys by the NSSO (the last was in from 2011-12) and the annual Labour Bureau surveys (the last of these was from 2016-17) have been discontinued and replaced by the quarterly and annual Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS; first conducted in 2017-18). However, the National Democratic Alliance government has not released the results of the 2016-17 Labour Bureau survey or the 2017-18 PLFS.

  2. Instead of releasing household-level employment data (collected by these surveys), the government relied on various databases, including of the Employee Provident Fund Organisation and the Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency Ltd. However, these databases do not provide data for the entire labour workforce.

  3. The report draws data from the Consumer Pyramids Survey (CPHS) by the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy, Mumbai. CPHS is a nationally representative survey that covers around 160,000 households and 522,000 individuals, and is conducted in three ‘waves’ every year. An employment-unemployment module was added to the survey in 2016.

  4. Unemployment has risen steadily since 2011. Both the PLFS (the findings of which were ‘leaked’ by the Business Standard in February 2019) and the CPHS reported that the overall unemployment rate in 2018 was around 6 per cent – double of what it was between 2000 and 2011.

  5. Five million men lost their jobs between 2016 and 2018 – the beginning of the decline in jobs coincided with demonetisation in November 2016, although no direct causal relationship between the two can be established based solely on these trends. The report says that in general women are “worse affected than men. They have higher unemployment rates as well as lower labour force participation rates.”

  6. The total estimated budget of the National Urban Employment Guarantee Programme will range from 1.7 to 2.7 per cent of GDP, depending on whether employment is guaranteed to every adult or one adult from every household.

  7. An estimated 30-50 million workers will be eligible for employment through this programme, which will provide 100 days of guaranteed work at Rs. 500 a day or 150 continuous days of training/apprenticeship with a monthly stipend of Rs. 13,000 for the educated youth.

  8. According to the All India Survey on Governance Issues and Voting Behavior 2018, after jobs, improved healthcare was the most important priority for voters. India currently spends only around 1 per cent of its GDP on public health, and this has been the allotment since 2000.

  9. Government spending on education is around 4 per cent of GDP. Out-of-pocket expenditure by households on a primary-level student in a government school was Rs. 1,111 per academic session (NSS 2014). On average, the cost to families of primary school education in public schools was one-tenth that of primary education in private schools.

  10. In 2017, manufacturing accounted for 15.1 per cent of India’s GDP, whereas it accounted for 29.3 per cent of China’s GDP. In 2011-12, India’s manufacturing sector provided employment to 61.3 million people, which was 13 per cent of the country’s total workforce of 472.5 million.

  11. The report says that while economic growth has helped India bring down poverty rates, this growth has not translated into jobs. The State of Working India 2018 report found that the vast majority of workers earned less than what would be termed a ‘living wage’.

  12. To increase employment, the report suggests that government policy could help create jobs in the private sector, address the chronic skills shortage, finance startups directed at ‘the bottom of the pyramid’, expand MGNREGA to address the country’s ecological challenges, help ‘unskilled’ workers find employment, and train and hire workers to conserve heritage structures, thereby promoting tourism.

    Focus and Factoids by Ajay Srinivasmurthy.


Lead Author: Amit Basole

Contributing Authors: Rosa Abraham, Mathew Idiculla, Arjun Jayadev, Seema Mundoli, Harini Nagendra, Rajendran Narayanan, Tejas Pande, Anand Shrivastava, Anjana Thampi, Jayan Jose Thomas and Srinivas Thurivadanthai


Centre for Sustainable Employment, Azim Premji University, Bengaluru


16 Apr, 2019