Creative ‘Made in India’ anti-poverty policies, such as MGNREGA (rural job guarantee scheme) and PMGSY (rural road scheme), that helped stabilise and raise household incomes, continue to inspire the world, said a senior ILO official, adding that economic growth by itself is not enough to tackle growing income inequalities and create quality jobs.
“The rising tide (of growth) in India is not lifting every boat,” said Sandra Polaski, Deputy Director General (Policy) of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Delivering a lecture on ‘The Future of Work’ to mark 20 years of the Institute of Human Development here on Wednesday, she said to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved in the next 15 years, India will need to adapt its labour market policies as its economy transitions from agriculture to manufacturing.
For example, to curb growing migration, sectors that can absorb workers where they live can be encouraged, she said. Also, the country needs to move toward formalisation of labour and ensure greater participation of women in the workforce, as also ensure social protection to over 90 per cent of its workforce in the unorganised sector.
She said India should first build a social protection floor and then move on to amend or fine-tune the existing labour laws through dialogue.
“First place to start is, build your social protection floor meaning everybody can breathe a sigh. Well, we have certain level of income protection which will keep people above poverty line and contribute to macro economy (demand). Then you can fine tune that (strict labour laws),” said Polaski.
On falling work participation rate of women, Polaski said while India had seen some job growth, it had been mainly for men in urban areas. “Women in rural areas are withdrawing from work for various reasons, and most of the jobs created in India have been informal in nature, as seen in the rise of the number of contract jobs,” she added.
Polaski called for policy intervention to reverse the direction of the job market which had shifted away from inclusive growth and social justice, mainly impacted by technology and rising migration.
Calling for labour reforms suited to “country-specific market realities”, the ILO official said the challenge of India lay in balancing regulation with an employment-friendly development agenda.