Editorial Simplified: The Shape of an Urban Employment Guarantee| GS – III


Relevance: GS Paper III (Economy)


Theme of the Article

Such a programme will not only improve worker incomes but also have multiplier effects on the economy.


Why has this Issue Cropped Up?

India is in the midst of a massive jobs crisis. The unemployment rate has reached a 45-year high (6.1%) in 2017-18.


The Job Crisis

  • The unemployment problem is especially aggravated in India’s cities and towns.
  • Aside from unemployment, low wages and precarity continue to be widespread.
  • In urban India the majority of the population continues to work in the informal sector.

India’s Towns Ignored

  • India’s small and medium towns are particularly ignored in the State’s urban imagination.
  • Both State and Central governments tend to treat towns as “engines of growth” for the economy rather than spaces where thousands toil to make a living.
  • Programmes such as the Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana (1997) that included an urban wage employment component have made way for those focussed on skilling and entrepreneurship.
  • National-level urban programmes such as the Smart Cities Mission and the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) only benefit only a few towns.
  • Most ULBs ( urban local bodies ) are struggling to carry out basic functions because of a lack of financial and human capacity. Further, with untrammelled urbanisation, they are facing more challenges due to the degradation of urban ecological commons.

Way Forward

  • We need new ways to promote the sustainable development of India’s small and medium towns.
  • It is worthwhile considering to introduce an employment guarantee programme in urban areas. Along with addressing the concerns of underemployment and unemployment, such a programme can bring in much-needed public investment in towns.
  • In Madhya Pradesh, the new State government has launched the “Yuva Swabhiman Yojana” which provides employment for both skilled and unskilled workers among urban youth. Such programmes can be emulated by other States as well.
  • ULB should receive funds from the Centre and the State at the beginning of each financial year so that funds are available locally. Wages would be disbursed in a decentralised manner at the local ULB.
  • Urban employment programme should not come at the expense of MGNREGA but rather the two should go hand-in-hand.
  • Urban informal workers with limited formal education can undertake standard public works such as building and maintenance of roads, footpaths and bridges for a guaranteed 100 days in a year, at ₹500 a day.
  • “Green jobs” can be provided which include the creation, restoration/rejuvenation, and maintenance of urban commons such as green spaces and parks, forested or woody areas, degraded or waste land, and water bodies.
  • Further, a set of jobs that will cater to the “care deficit” in towns by providing child-care as well as care for the elderly and the disabled to the urban working class should be included.
  • Unemployed youth with higher education can assist administrative functions in municipal offices, government schools, or public health centres, and for the monitoring, measurement, or evaluation of environmental parameters.
  • Strong transparency and accountability structures — disclosure of information, periodic social audits, public hearing, timely grievance redressal for workers should be employed.

Conclusion

An urban employment guarantee programme not only improves incomes of workers but also has multiplier effects on the economy. Hence, the time is ripe for an employment guarantee programme in urban India.