At a time when the report of the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) report claims an upward trend in employment in India’s labour market with 15 million people entering the workforce, professional economists, analysing available data and trends, have exposed that claim by establishing that a fall in unemployment is not equal to a rise in employment.

Most of the new jobs are distress-driven, while the data shows that the average earnings of the entire workforce, together, are going up. Is, however, these are broken down into different categories, we observe that real earnings are going up only for casual work. In other categories earnings are either stagnating or going down in real terms. Besides, the percentage of employers, the job givers, is stagnating.

These were the conclusions of a two-day conference on finance and economy with the theme ‘Measuring Recovery’, held in Delhi, organised by Centre for Financial Accountability, Economic Research Foundation and Focus on the Global South.

“The type of job that constitutes the highest share of the workforce is not just hugely precarious in its nature, but also the real earnings from the job have not seen any rise,” Mrinalini Jha, OP Jindal Global University said.

“Now we have to challenge labour statistics as well! The way these have been twisted, to show that there is no problem of female unemployment. Now we have begun counting unpaid domestic work, but to what end, does this actually empower women? If we really care about their work, we must invest in infrastructure that supports them like childcare facilities, but our interest lies in just counting their work, and driving up employment figures,” Dipa Sinha, Ambedkar University said, alluding to the employment data of the government.

Different sessions at the conference discussed issues like official Claims on Recovery, unequal K-shaped recovery, corporate write-offs and rural debt crisis, labour, wages and social protection, Muslims and financial recovery. Eminent economists and activists including Arun Kumar, retired Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University;

CP Chandrashekhar, retired Professor of Economics & Economic Research Foundation; Nandini Nayak, Assistant Professor at the School of Development Studies, Ambedkar University Delhi; Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Senior journalist; Surajit Mazumdar, Professor, CESP, JNU; Devidas Tuljapurkar, Joint Secretary of the All India Bank Employees Association; Thomas Franco, Former General Secretary All India Bank Officers Confederation; Arvind Pandey, Asst Professor, TISS, Hyderabad; Dipa Sinha, Asst Professor, Ambedkar University Delhi; Praveen Jha, Professor, CESP, JNU; Chirashree Dasgupta, Associate Professor, JNU; Ritwick Dutta, Founder of LIFE; Manshi Asher, Environmental justice activist and Ghazala Jamil, Asst Professor JNU spoke at various sessions.

“Government’s exaggerated claims about India’s rapid growth are echoed even by the UN and IMF, relying on the government-provided data. But their data collection method is deeply flawed. New indicators are required based on fresh surveys. But no new survey of the unorganised sector has been conducted since 2015,” said black money expert and economist,

Prof. Arun Kumar at the conference. “There is a recognition on the part of the Reserve Bank of India (EBI) in recent times of the global headwinds we are faced with. These include challenges of a daunting cost of living crisis, high levels of sovereign debt, tight financial conditions, uncertainties of war, climate crisis and so on. And yet, there is a rather celebratory note in the self-appraisal of the government in terms of India’s economic recovery,” said Prof Kumar busting the claims of the government about economic recovery.

Senior economist CP Chandrashekhar spoke about a peculiar inflationary rise in India driven by two large contributors comprising oil and food that have added to the woes of the people. He also spoke of the large amount of money that came into lower middle-income countries, which ultimately has resulted in rising debt.

Speaking in a session about ‘unequal recovery and its costs,’ Journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta said, “We have gone one step further from cronyism. The nexus between governments and conglomerates has been strengthened like never before. We are moving towards oligarchy.”

The session titled ‘Fractured Recovery – Socio- Economic’ toll of Divisive Politics’ shed light on the impact of divisive politics on the lives and economic opportunities available for the Muslim community, focusing on how Muslims are ghettoized, not just in terms of their living spaces in cities but also as segments of the labour market.

The conference also marked the release of the second edition of the State of Finance in India report. Edited by CP Chandrashekhar, Jayati Ghosh, Shalmali Guttal, Joe Athialy and Anirban Bhattacharya and published by Yoda Press, the report is a first of its kind that expands the domain of finance and economics beyond the confines of ivory tower experts. The report invites writings from a cross section of academics, policy makers, activists, social practitioners and eminent economists who engage with questions from the ground.

This article was originally published in Sabrangindia and can be read here.

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