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27 Nov

Flight from agriculture

Flight from agriculture
Neither the Census nor the National Sample Survey is geared to capture the complexity of India’s migrations. A migrant in the Census is someone counted at a place other than his or her last place of residence. This records a single move not multiple migrations. So it sees only the tip of the mobility iceberg, missing footloose migrations altogether. What we do know from Census 2001 is of the flight from agriculture. Between 1991 and 2001, over seven million people for whom cultivation was the main livelihood, quit farming. That is a mind-boggling figure. It suggests that, on average, close to 2,000 people a day abandon farming in the country. Where do they go? Nothing in employment data suggests they get absorbed in decent work in bustling cities.
What about ‘natural increase’, which is the difference between the numbers of births and deaths in a population. This does not explain the switch around in rural-urban increases either. Indeed, the rate of natural increase has declined in both rural and urban areas. Still the urban population and towns get bigger and bigger.
This has led to phenomenon of informalization of occupational structure: Due to globalization private companies often outsource parts of their business processes to Informal sectors at low wages; A large proportion of the workers engaged in the urban unorganised sector is migrants from rural areas with poor educational, training and skill background and are employed in low-paying, semi-skilled or unskilled jobs. The productivity and earning levels in most of the enterprises are low and do not often provide full time work to those engaged. For the employees, the working environment is not conducive; working hours are long and most of the conditions of decent employment (e.g. paid leave, pension, bonus, medical support and health insurance, maternity leave benefits, compensation against accident, etc.) are nearly non-existent. The past trends and all the available evidence suggest that the bulk of the growth in employment in future will come from the unorganised sector. It will be an important challenge to ensure that employment in this sector consists of jobs with safe conditions of work, decent and growing earnings and a measure of income and social security. Moreover, increasing the proportion of organised sector employment will be an important task to accomplish near future …


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