India Employment Report 2024

GS Paper III

News Excerpt:

In 2022, India's youth accounted for 83% of the country's total unemployed population, according to the India Employment Report 2024, compiled jointly by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Institute for Human Development (IHD).

Key highlights of the report:

  • The report has flagged concerns about poor employment conditions: 
    • The slow transition to non-farm employment has reversed; 
    • Women largely account for the increase in self-employment and unpaid family work; 
    • Youth employment is of poorer quality than employment for adults; 
    • Wages and earnings are stagnant or declining.

  • The ‘employment condition index’ has improved between 2004-05 and 2021-22
    • However, some states - Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand, and UP - have remained at the bottom throughout this period, while others - Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Telangana, Uttarakhand, and Gujarat - have stayed at the top.
  • The index is based on seven labour market outcome indicators: 
    • Percentage of workers employed in regular formal work; 
    • Percentage of casual labourers; 
    • Percentage of self-employed workers below the poverty line; 
    • Work participation rate; 
    • Average monthly earnings of casual labourers; 
    • Unemployment rate of secondary and above-educated youth; 
    • Youth not in employment and education or training.
  • Employment quality:

    • Informal employment has risen - around half the jobs in the formal sector are of an informal nature.
      • Almost 82% of the workforce is engaged in the informal sector, and nearly 90% is informally employed.
    • Self-employment and unpaid family work have also increased, especially for women. 
      • Self-employment remains the primary source of employment - 55.8% in 2022. 
      • Casual and regular employment accounted for 22.7% and 21.5% respectively.
      • The share of self-employment remained almost stable at around 52% between 2000 and 2019, while regular employment increased by almost 10 percentage points, to 23.8% from 14.2%. 
        • This reversed by 2022, with self-employment increasing to 55.8%, while the share of regular employment declined to 21.5%. Casual employment consistently declined to 22.7% in 2022 from 33.3% in 2000.

Regular employment v/s casual work:

  • Regular employment is generally seen as providing better-quality jobs due to the regularity of employment and associated social security benefits. 
  • Casual work is linked with relatively poor-quality jobs due to its irregular nature and lower daily earnings.
  • Participation of women:
    • The female labour force participation rate (LFPR) in India remains among the world’s lowest. 
    • Female LFPR declined by 14.4 percentage points (compared to 8.1 percentage points for males) between 2000 and 2019. 
    • The trend reversed after that, with female LFPR rising by 8.3 percentage points (compared to 1.7 percentage points for male LFPR) between 2019 and 2022.
    • There is a considerable gender gapwomen’s LFPR (32.8%) in 2022 was 2.3 times lower than men’s (77.2%). 
    • India’s low LFPR is largely attributed to the low female LFPR, which was much lower than the world average of 47.3% in 2022 but higher than the South Asian average of 24.8%, as per ILO data.

  • Structural transformation:
    • There has been a reversal of the slow transition towards non-farm employment after 2018-19. 
    • The share of agriculture in total employment fell to around 42% in 2019 from 60% in 2000.
      • This shift was largely absorbed by construction and services, the share of which in total employment increased to 32% in 2019 from 23% in 2000. 
      • The share of manufacturing in employment has remained almost stagnant at 12-14%.
    • Since 2018-19, this slow transition has stagnated or reversed with the rise in the share of agricultural employment.
  • Youth employment:

    • There has been a rise in youth employment, but the quality of work remains a concern, especially for qualified young workers.
    • Youth employment and underemployment increased between 2000 and 2019 but declined during the pandemic years. 
      • However, unemployment among youths, especially those with secondary-level or higher education, has intensified over time.
    • In 2022, the share of unemployed youths in the total unemployed population was 82.9%. 
      • The share of educated youths among all unemployed people also increased to 65.7% in 2022 from 54.2% in 2000.
    • The unemployment rate among youths was six times greater for those who had completed secondary education or higher (18.4%) and nine times higher for graduates (29.1%) than for persons who could not read or write (3.4%) in 2022. 
      • This was higher among educated young women (21.4%) than men (17.5%), especially among female graduates (34.5%) compared to men (26.4%).
    • The unemployment rate among educated youths grew to 30.8% in 2019 from 23.9% in 2000 but fell to 18.4% in 2022.
  • Growing social inequalities:
    • According to the report, despite affirmative action and targeted policies, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes still lag in terms of access to better jobs. 
    • Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have greater participation in work due to economic necessity but are engaged more in low-paid temporary casual wage work and informal employment. 
    • Despite improvement in educational attainment among all groups, the hierarchy within social groups persists.

Way forward:

  • There are five key policy areas for further action
    • Promoting job creation; 
    • Improving employment quality; 
    • Addressing labour market inequalities; 
    • Strengthening skills and active labour market policies; 
    • Bridging the knowledge deficits on labour market patterns and youth employment.
  • The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) could have an impact on employment, the report said, noting that the outsourcing industry in India could be disrupted because some back-office tasks would be taken over by AI.
  • Investment and regulations are required in the emerging care and digital economies, which could be an important source of productive employment. 
    • The lack of job security, irregular wages, and uncertain employment status for workers pose significant challenges for gig or platform work.
  • Economic policies are required to boost productive non-farm employment, especially in the manufacturing sector, with India likely to add 7-8 million youths annually to the labour force during the next decade.
  • More support must be provided to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, especially by providing tools such as digitalisation and AI and a cluster-based approach to manufacturing.


As per the report, India’s job story over the past two decades has seen some paradoxical improvements in labour market indicators, while the basic long-term feature of the employment situation in the country continued to be insufficient growth of the non-farm sectors and the ability of these sectors to absorb workers from agriculture.

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