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regular-article-logo Monday, 27 May 2024

Real wages for poor stagnate in India since 2014-15 despite rapid GDP growth: Economists

Dreze, known as the architect of the rural employment scheme during the UPA regime, and Khera, an IIT Delhi professor, also found that the country’s social security system had stagnated during this period

Animesh Bisoee Ranchi Published 21.04.24, 05:31 AM
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Real wages have barely risen in India since 2014-15 despite rapid GDP growth, found development economists Jean Dreze and Reetika Khera.

Dreze, known as the architect of the rural employment scheme during the UPA regime, and Khera, an IIT Delhi professor, also found that the country’s social security system had stagnated during this period.

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The lives of informal workers remain extremely precarious, especially in states like Jharkhand, where casual employment is the main source of livelihood for millions, they said in a news conference organised by the Loktantra Bachao Abhiyan 2024 in Ranchi on Saturday.

Sharing data from government sources in a presentation, the Belgian-born Dreze showed evidence of a virtual stagnation in real wages since 2014-15. He cited five sources — the labour bureau data, periodic labour force surveys, agriculture ministry (for wages of labourers), Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy and the Centre for Labour Research and Action.

“Among these, the most important source is the labour bureau’s Wage Rates in Rural India (WRRI) series. Similar patterns apply to most occupations, agricultural and non-agricultural,” said an abhiyan official.

By 2014, India had five major programmes aimed at bolstering social security in the informal sector — the public distribution system (PDS), National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, maternity benefits, social security pensions, and child nutrition schemes under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and the midday-meal programme, the presentation stated.

The economists said all five programmes had been undermined in one way or another by the NDA government. “For instance, the central budget for the ICDS and midday meals declined by 40 per cent...in the past 10 years; maternity benefits have been restricted to one child per family; the central contribution to social security pensions under the National Social Assistance Programme has stagnated at Rs 200 per month; rural job wages have stagnated and are rarely paid on time; and more than 100 million persons have been excluded from the PDS due to the continued use of 2011 population figures. In Jharkhand alone, 44 lakh people are excluded because of this,” said Dreze.

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