DMPQ-“Economic growth alone can not solve the challenge of development, to do so income levels needs of people need to increase as well”. Comment

. The provisional estimates of annual national income (2020-21), released on May 31 by the National Statistical Office, did not have any surprises, but for one, that is, there is nothing encouraging in the numbers.

The agriculture sector continued its impressive growth performance, reiterating that it still remains as the vital sector of the economy, especially at times of crisis. The manufacturing sector continued its subdued growth performance, failing to emerge as the growth driver, with production interruptions due to localised lockdowns to be blamed. The contraction in trade (-18.2%), construction (-8.6%), mining (-8.5%) and manufacturing (-7.2%) is a matter of concern as these sectors account for the bulk of low-skilled jobs. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at Constant (2011-12) Prices in Q4 of 2020-21 is showing a growth of 1.6%, slightly better than expected, but for a period when the restrictions on mobility and economic activity witnessed reduction, this performance looks below par. Further, this growth, which is an improvement over the 0.5% rate of growth in the previous quarter, is a statistical artefact as it is not devoid of the base effect and seasonality which plagues quarterly estimates. The magnitude of contraction in the economy and the policy responses towards it raises an important issue, that is, the question of growth prospects for the next year.

Contextualising the current growth rates in terms of some other macroeconomic data would provide us a better perspective on growth recovery. First, the unemployment data released by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) which says, “In May 2021, India’s labour participation rate at 40 per cent was the same as it was in April 2021. But, the unemployment rate shot up to 11.9 per cent from 8 per cent in April. A stable labour participation rate combined with a higher unemployment rate implies a loss of jobs and a fall in the employment rate.

The employment rate fell to 35.3 per cent in May 2021 from 36.8 per cent in April 2021. This is a very sharp fall for a single month… May 2021 was therefore a particularly stressful month on the jobs front”. According to CMIE, over 15 million jobs were lost in May 2021, higher than the 12.3 million in November 2016, the month of demonetisation. May 2021 was also the fourth consecutive month of a fall in employment. The more worrying fact is that the cumulative fall in employment since January 2021 is 25.3 million of which 22.7 million were in the first quarter of FY 2021-2022, that is, during April and May. This shows that the second wave of the pandemic has already dented economic activities, postponing recovery further. The job losses also bring out the high informality and vulnerability of labour in India as of the total jobs lost during April-May, 17.2 million were of daily wage earners.

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