Urban employment: Need to promote diversity, equal opportunity

urban unemployment and labour force participation
The latest NSSO data unveils a nuanced picture of India's urban unemployment, highlighting signs of recovery alongside gender disparities and shifts in employment patterns.

In an evolving economic landscape, understanding employment patterns and trends is crucial for policy makers, economists, and individuals seeking to navigate the job market. This article analyses urban employment trends in India, based on the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) conducted by the National Statistics Office under the ministry of statistics and programme implementation from January to March 2023. By delving into the data presented in the form of four tables, the article sheds light on the dynamics of urban workforce and explores the nuances of gender inclusion in employment surveys.

Labour force participation and worker population ratio

Table numbers 1 and 2, derived from the Periodic Labour Force Survey conducted by the NSO, offer valuable insights into the labour force participation rate (LFPR) and worker population ratio (WPR) in urban areas. These indicators gauge the proportion of individuals actively participating in the labour market. The data reveals interesting trends across different age groups and genders, including transgender individuals, indicating a growing and diverse urban workforce.

We observe a positive trend in LFPR and WPR among individuals aged 15-29 years, suggesting increased opportunities for young people in the urban job market. This is a promising sign, as it indicates that young adults are actively engaging in economic activities and acquiring valuable skills.

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The data highlight the gender dynamics in urban employment. In terms of LFPR, males consistently show higher participation rates than females across all age groups. However, it is encouraging to see an upward trajectory in female LFPR, indicating a gradual reduction in gender disparities in urban labour force participation. The inclusion of data related to transgender individuals further emphasises the importance of capturing their representation in employment surveys and recognising their contributions to the workforce.

The Worker Population Ratio (WPR) provides insights into the proportion of the working-age population that is employed. The data shows that individuals aged 15 years and above have a relatively higher WPR, reflecting a greater degree of labour market engagement among adults. However, like LFPR, males exhibit a higher WPR than females, suggesting the existence of gender disparities in employment opportunities.

Employment distribution by categories

Table 3, derived from the Periodic Labour Force Survey conducted by the NSO, provides a detailed breakdown of employment distribution across various categories in urban areas. Analysing the data reveals the occupational preferences and choices of different gender groups, including transgender individuals, within the urban workforce.

Regular wage/salaried employment emerges as the dominant category across all gender groups, indicating the significance of formal sector employment in urban areas. This finding underscores the need for policies that promote job security, social protection, and fair wages for employees. It also highlights the potential benefits of enhancing skill development initiatives to equip individuals with the qualifications necessary for regular wage/salaried employment.

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Self-employment is another notable category, reflecting the entrepreneurial spirit and independent work culture prevalent in urban areas. The data suggests that individuals, including transgender individuals, are pursuing business ventures and engaging in entrepreneurial activities. Encouraging and supporting such endeavours can stimulate economic growth, create employment opportunities, and foster innovation.

The data related to transgender individuals provides crucial insights into their employment patterns. While the numbers indicate their participation in various employment categories, it also highlights the challenges they face in accessing formal employment opportunities. Transgender individuals often encounter discrimination, prejudice, and exclusion in the labour market, leading to a higher prevalence of informal sector engagement. To address this issue, it is imperative to implement policies that promote inclusivity, eliminate discrimination, and provide targeted support and skill-building initiatives for transgender individuals.

Additionally, the data reveals the presence of helper roles in household enterprises, especially among females. This highlights the informal nature of such employment, often associated with lower wages, limited benefits, and a lack of job security. Addressing the challenges faced by individuals engaged in household enterprises is essential to improve their livelihoods and enhance their social and economic well-being.

Sector-wise employment patterns

Table 4, derived from the Periodic Labour Force Survey conducted by the NSO, presents the distribution of employment across different sectors in urban areas. Analysing this data allows us to understand the evolving nature of urban employment and the contributions made by various gender groups, including transgender individuals, in different sectors.

The agriculture sector, which includes activities related to farming and allied occupations, shows a relatively lower share of employment in urban areas. This aligns with the urbanisation process, where agricultural activities gradually decrease, and other sectors become more prominent. However, it is crucial to consider the challenges faced by agricultural workers transitioning to non-agricultural sectors, ensuring their smooth integration into urban employment opportunities.

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The secondary sector, comprising industries such as manufacturing, construction, and mining, demonstrates a significant share of employment in urban areas. This finding reflects the growth of industrial activities and the demand for skilled and semi-skilled labour. Efforts to enhance technical and vocational education, as well as apprenticeship programs, can further facilitate employment generation in this sector.

The tertiary sector, encompassing services such as trade, finance, education, healthcare, and hospitality, emerges as the largest employer in urban areas. This sector’s substantial share indicates the importance of service-oriented activities and the expanding role of the urban economy in providing diverse employment opportunities. The data related to transgender individuals reveals their engagement in service-oriented sectors, highlighting their potential contributions to the urban service economy.

While the data showcases the overall employment distribution across sectors, it is crucial to address sector-specific challenges and gaps in terms of gender representation, equal pay, and work conditions. Enhancing women’s participation in traditionally male-dominated sectors, such as construction and manufacturing, and addressing occupational segregation are vital steps toward achieving gender equality in urban employment.

Gender disparities and inclusivity

Throughout the analysis, gender disparities in urban employment become evident, and efforts to address them are crucial for creating an inclusive workforce. The data indicates lower LFPR and WPR for females compared to males, indicating the existence of barriers and systemic biases that hinder women’s full economic participation. Furthermore, the data related to transgender individuals reveals their vulnerability to discrimination and exclusion, necessitating targeted policies and support systems to ensure their inclusion in urban employment.

The prevalence of informal employment, particularly among females and transgender individuals, is a significant concern. Informal employment often lacks job security, social protection, and access to essential benefits. Addressing this issue requires measures to formalise informal employment, enhance labour market regulations, and provide social security mechanisms that cover workers in the informal sector.

Promoting inclusivity in the urban workforce requires concerted efforts to eliminate gender-based discrimination, biases, and stereotypes. This involves implementing policies that ensure equal access to employment opportunities, fair wages, and career advancement for all gender groups, including transgender individuals. It also necessitates the creation of safe and inclusive work environments that foster diversity and provide support mechanisms for individuals facing discrimination or harassment.

Findings and conclusion

The comprehensive analysis of urban employment trends, derived from the Periodic Labour Force Survey conducted by the NSO, presented in this article, offers valuable insights into the dynamics shaping India’s diverse urban workforce. The positive trends in labour force participation, worker population ratio, and the dominance of regular wage/salaried employment signify progress in urban areas. However, gender disparities persist, calling for continued efforts to promote inclusivity, eliminate discrimination, and create a supportive environment for all gender identities in the urban workforce.

The inclusion of data related to transgender individuals highlights their unique challenges and emphasises the importance of recognising their contributions to the labour market. It is imperative to develop targeted policies, provide skill-building initiatives, and foster inclusive work environments to empower transgender individuals and enable their active participation in urban employment.

By understanding and addressing the nuances of urban employment trends, policymakers, employers, and individuals can work collectively to foster a more equitable, inclusive, and prosperous urban workforce. This workforce should embrace diversity, uphold dignity, and ensure equal opportunities for all.

(Dr. Prashant Pareek is an Assistant Professor and Dr. Neha Sharma is Director at Shanti Business School, Ahmedabad, Gujarat.)