No matter how hard they try to brush it under the carpet, the facts are out. Unemployment rates in India are up, and the ghost of PM Modi’s grand demonetization exercise isn’t going away.
The unemployment rate in India rose to 7.2 per cent in February 2019, the highest since September 2016, and up from 5.9 per cent in February 2018, according to data compiled by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) and released on Tuesday.
The unemployment rate has climbed despite a fall in the number of job seekers, Mahesh Vyas, head of the Mumbai-based think tank told Reuters news agency, citing an estimated fall in the labour force participation rate.
The number of employed persons in India was estimated at 400 million in February compared with 406 million a year ago, he said.
The CMIE numbers are based on a survey of tens of thousands of households across India. The figures are regarded by many economists as more credible than the jobless data produced by the government.
When the government has released official data for the jobless rate in the past, it has tended to be out-of-date. But recently, it withheld a batch of data because officials said they needed to ‘check its veracity.’
The figures that were withheld in December were leaked to a local newspaper a few weeks ago, and showed that India’s unemployment rate rose to its highest level in at least 45 years in 2017-18.
A CMIE report released in January said nearly 11 million people lost jobs in 2018 after the demonetisation of high-value notes in late 2016 and the chaotic launch of a new goods and services tax in 2017 hit millions of small businesses.
The Modi government told Parliament last month that it did not have data on the impact of demonetisation on jobs in small businesses.
A recent editorial in an English language newspaper pointed to the fear or inhibitions the government feels about releasing unpleasant data. ‘This government will go down in the history of independent India as being — allegedly — the most manipulative about macroeconomic data.’ It said. ‘It does not really take data for a perceptive citizen to realize that jobs are scarce and unstable, and that unemployment is rampant. The government trying to hide from it all will neither help the economy nor its short-term electoral prospects.’