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In 2017-18, more than half of the working-age population, in the age group of 15-64 years, moved out of the labour force for the first time in India, as per the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO)survey.

The findings of this survey have been withheld by the government and two senior members of the National Statistics Commission quit in protest.

The Business Standard (BS), which accessed the NSSO documents, had earlier reported that India’s unemployment rate had risen to a 45-year high during 2017-2018. However, Niti Aayog has disputed the report, saying that the survey was yet not final.

Following up the report on NSSO findings, a BS report said over half of the working agge population of India was not involved in any economic activity. The labour force participation rate (LFPR), which determines the percentage of people who are either working or looking for work, was 49.8 percent in 2017-18, down from 55.9 percent in 2011-12 and 63.7 percent in 2004-05, Business Standard reported.

“It’s a serious cause of worry as you are unable to utilise the demographic dividend factor — especially keeping in mind the fact that 65 percent of the population is in the working age group,” Radhika Kapoor, Fellow, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, told BS.

Another disturbing feature is that less than a quarter of the female population in India part of the labour force (either working or seeking jobs) now.

Between 2011-12 and 2017-18, active labour force for females declined by twice in the age group 15 years and above. In the same time period, the LFPR for females plunged around eight percentage points to 23.3 percent.Only about 25 percent of India’s females were actively working or seeking jobs in 2017-18.

In comparison, the LFPR for males was down four percentage points to 75.8 percent in 2017-18.

Also, rural areas saw a rapid decline in the labour force participation rate – fourtimes more than what was seen in the urban areas – fallingfrom 67.7 percent to 58.7 percent and the latter falling from 49.3 percent to 47.6 percent in the period between 2011-12 to 2017-18.

Female LFPR declined sharply by more than 11 percentage points in rural areas, while it remained almost the same in urban areas.

The unemployment rate among the youth was in the range of 13.6-27.2 percent, up two-three times from 2011-12 levels.

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