Rural India goes high on labour flow

Despite registering a decline of 3.6% in India’s agricultural labour force, rural India has registered a 12% increase.

Rashi Aditi Ghosh/ZRG
Despite registering a decadal decline of 3.6 percent in India’s agricultural labour force, rural India has registered a 12 percent increase in its overall labour force between 2001 and 2011. This is when rural India contributes the most of agricultural labour and is currently experiencing a shortage of farm labour. The trend raises more questions: does it mean disguised unemployment in Indian agriculture is reducing? What is the nature of migration of workforce? Are they shifting into productive sectors of the economy?
According to ‘Primary Census Abstract’ – a report by Census India 2011, India lost about 9 million of its cultivators in the decade between 2001 and 2011. Despite the fall the labour force in rural India overpowered the urban populace. As per Census 2011, the total number of workers refers to persons who have worked for at least one day during the reference year. The four fold classifications of workers included in the report are cultivators (CL), agricultural labourers (AL), working in household industries (HHI) and other workers (OW). While rural India recorded 349 million workers in 2011, merely 133.1 million workers were recorded in urban India in 2011. Similarly in 2001, total number of workers recorded in rural India was 70 per cent higher as compared to the total number of workers in urban India. While rural India reported 301 million workers in 2001, urban India merely had 92.3 million workers in 2001. Attributing growth of various employment opportunities other than agriculture as a reason for labour growth in rural India, Suryamani Roul, Senior vice president at ACCESS development services (Delhi) says, “Despite a fall in the agricultural sector, the labour force in rural India is experiencing a boom because many other sectors like construction and transportation are coming up with various opportunities an these sources are vividly attracting a lot of labour from rural India. Higher population density of rural India too seems to have played a pivotal role in the increased inflow of labourers. Reasoning population imbalance as a reason to higher labour force in rural India ,Sandip Nayak, Assistant general manager communication at Smile Foundation (Delhi) says, “Rural India is experiencing higher labour force participation than urban India because 70 per cent of India’s population comes from rural India.” The census further reports that the total number of workers in India has registered a growth of 19.8 per cent, which is marginally higher than the overall population growth rate of 17.7 per cent during the decade (2001-2011). Apart from the rural urban workforce, the Primary Census Abstract-2011 also reflects a decadal disparity between the men and women workforce participation. While the number of number of men workers have registered 20.7 per cent growth in their participation, merely 17.8 per cent growth is registered within the women workforce participation. Commenting on the workforce disparity between men and women in India, Roul at ACCESS development services (Delhi) further added, “The work place disparity between men and women is a historical trend but according to the latest report the gap is merely 3 per cent. Over the decade the employment opportunities are getting vast and simultaneously the standard of living is also getting higher, the need to match the inflating expenses is actually motivating more women to go out and work.”