Rising Share of Young People in MGNREGS Not A Warning Sign: Minister. Experts Disagree.


Mumbai: On November 19, 2019, when asked whether the government recognises that the increase in the share of 18- to 30-year-old workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) since 2017-18 is an indication of a lack of job opportunities and rural economic distress, rural development minister Narendra Singh Tomar said “no”.

However, experts disagree and point to a decline in rural and urban jobs--which is pushing young people into less-skilled work under MGNREGS, the world’s largest make-work programme meant to alleviate economic distress in rural India.

The share of the young workers (18-30 years) in MGNREGS rose 1.37 percentage points--from 7.73% in 2017-18 to 9.1% in 2018-19, according to data from the scheme’s management information system, cited by Tomar in his reply. This further rose to 10.1% as of September 2019, according to government data.

The rise in youth workers under MGNREGS is a symptom of a lack of job opportunities and “a symptom of the current rural economic crisis”, Rajendran Narayanan, Assistant Professor at the School of Arts and Sciences at Azim Premji University, Bengaluru, told FactChecker.in.

Between 2011-12 and 2017-18, unemployment rates among young men and women in India’s rural areas have nearly tripled, as per the Periodic Labour Force Survey 2018 (PLFS 2018) released by the National Statistical Office in May 2019.

“There is a lack of opportunities for young rural people and real desperation,” said Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. “Their increased share in MGNREGS shows this.”

Informal employment opportunities in rural areas--agricultural wage labour, self-employed farm work, seasonal construction work, or casual-wage work in the village--which make up 95% of employment have declined since demonetisation in 2016, explained Arun Kumar, professor-chair at the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi.

“MGNREGS was created for a wage floor for the least skilled rural workers, often older generations, and particularly women, who have been the majority participants (55%) over the last 10 years,” said Ghosh. “It is a failsafe form of employment if all else fails.”

“What makes this statistic indicative of rural economic crisis is that young people should rarely seek MGNREGS work,” Narayanan added. “They are typically the most educated or skilled portion of rural society, they are not who MGNREGS is for.”

Between 2012-13 and 2017-18, the percentage of rural Indians educated up to secondary level and above rose from 43% to 53% for rural Indian men, and from 32% to 43% for rural Indian women--PLFS 2018 data shows.

During that period, unemployment among rural youth (15-29) educated up to the secondary level and above rose from 43.1% to 52.6% from 2012-12 to 2017-18 for men, and from 32.3% to 43.4% for women, according to PLFS 2018.

“There has been increased drive amongst rural families towards further education for younger generations in rural areas, facilitated by distance learning,” said Ghosh. “This allows young people to migrate to urban areas and take up formal, skilled, and higher paying work.”

However, unemployment rates have increased in urban areas too.

“There are no longer jobs being created in urban areas due to the economic slowdown, and in the long run, automation,” said Kumar. “Highly educated people in urban areas are returning to their home villages, unable to find work, in some cases enrolling in MGNREGS.”

“I have seen cases of young people enrolling into the programme during semester breaks between studies--[and] even after graduating,” said Ghosh. “This floor wage programme is becoming the ceiling--it is a complete social waste.”

“This is the story that increasing share of young workforce participation in MGNREGS is telling--and a symptom of India’s overall economic rural and urban distress,” said Kumar.

(Habershon, a graduate from the University of Manchester, is an intern with IndiaSpend and FactChecker.in.)

We welcome feedback. Please write to respond@indiaspend.org. We reserve the right to edit responses for language and grammar.

Mumbai: On November 19, 2019, when asked whether the government recognises that the increase in the share of 18- to 30-year-old workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) since 2017-18 is an indication of a lack of job opportunities and rural economic distress, rural development minister Narendra Singh Tomar said “no”.

However, experts disagree and point to a decline in rural and urban jobs--which is pushing young people into less-skilled work under MGNREGS, the world’s largest make-work programme meant to alleviate economic distress in rural India.

The share of the young workers (18-30 years) in MGNREGS rose 1.37 percentage points--from 7.73% in 2017-18 to 9.1% in 2018-19, according to data from the scheme’s management information system, cited by Tomar in his reply. This further rose to 10.1% as of September 2019, according to government data.

The rise in youth workers under MGNREGS is a symptom of a lack of job opportunities and “a symptom of the current rural economic crisis”, Rajendran Narayanan, Assistant Professor at the School of Arts and Sciences at Azim Premji University, Bengaluru, told FactChecker.in.

Between 2011-12 and 2017-18, unemployment rates among young men and women in India’s rural areas have nearly tripled, as per the Periodic Labour Force Survey 2018 (PLFS 2018) released by the National Statistical Office in May 2019.

“There is a lack of opportunities for young rural people and real desperation,” said Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. “Their increased share in MGNREGS shows this.”

Informal employment opportunities in rural areas--agricultural wage labour, self-employed farm work, seasonal construction work, or casual-wage work in the village--which make up 95% of employment have declined since demonetisation in 2016, explained Arun Kumar, professor-chair at the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi.

“MGNREGS was created for a wage floor for the least skilled rural workers, often older generations, and particularly women, who have been the majority participants (55%) over the last 10 years,” said Ghosh. “It is a failsafe form of employment if all else fails.”

“What makes this statistic indicative of rural economic crisis is that young people should rarely seek MGNREGS work,” Narayanan added. “They are typically the most educated or skilled portion of rural society, they are not who MGNREGS is for.”

Between 2012-13 and 2017-18, the percentage of rural Indians educated up to secondary level and above rose from 43% to 53% for rural Indian men, and from 32% to 43% for rural Indian women--PLFS 2018 data shows.

During that period, unemployment among rural youth (15-29) educated up to the secondary level and above rose from 43.1% to 52.6% from 2012-12 to 2017-18 for men, and from 32.3% to 43.4% for women, according to PLFS 2018.

“There has been increased drive amongst rural families towards further education for younger generations in rural areas, facilitated by distance learning,” said Ghosh. “This allows young people to migrate to urban areas and take up formal, skilled, and higher paying work.”

However, unemployment rates have increased in urban areas too.

“There are no longer jobs being created in urban areas due to the economic slowdown, and in the long run, automation,” said Kumar. “Highly educated people in urban areas are returning to their home villages, unable to find work, in some cases enrolling in MGNREGS.”

“I have seen cases of young people enrolling into the programme during semester breaks between studies--[and] even after graduating,” said Ghosh. “This floor wage programme is becoming the ceiling--it is a complete social waste.”

“This is the story that increasing share of young workforce participation in MGNREGS is telling--and a symptom of India’s overall economic rural and urban distress,” said Kumar.

(Habershon, a graduate from the University of Manchester, is an intern with IndiaSpend and FactChecker.in.)

We welcome feedback. Please write to respond@indiaspend.org. We reserve the right to edit responses for language and grammar.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *