Urban Jobs Scheme : Daily Current Affairs

Relevance: GS-2: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education and Human Resources.

Key Phrases: MGNREGS, urban unemployed, National Sample Survey Organisation, Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, Swarna Jayanti Rozgar Yojana, National Urban Livelihoods Mission, Urban Employment Schemes, urban commons, skill urban youth, Parliamentary Standing Committee, Ayyankali Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme.

Why in News?

  • Unemployment in the last two years in India, apart from the rest of the world, reached its peak during Covid-19.
  • The MGNREGS (Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) came to the rescue of the rural unemployed to some extent during the pandemic, but the urban unemployed didn’t get any such help.

Unemployment Situation in India:

  • The statistics of National Sample Survey Organisation confirmed that last two-year unemployment rate was the highest in the last four decades.
  • As per CMIE (Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy) Survey, monthly unemployment rate was 23.7 per cent in April 2020, turned to 7.9 per cent by December 2021.
  • Urban unemployment was 9.3 per cent and in rural 7.28 per cent.
  • There were about 5.3 crores of unemployed youth in the country by end of December 2021.

Urban Employment Schemes in India:

  • Swarna Jayanti Rozgar Yojana:
    • In the Ninth Five Year Plan, urban wage employment programme, as a part of Swarna Jayanti Rozgar Yojana, was undertaken at a lower level for urban youth.
    • It was meant for creating employment on daily wages for poverty-stricken urban youth living in towns and small cities of less than five lakh population.
    • SJRY didn’t give expected results, and in its place, National Urban Livelihoods Mission was launched.
  • National Urban Livelihoods Mission:
    • It was launched in 2013 to reduce poverty and vulnerability of urban poor, by enabling them to access gainful employment and skilled wage employment opportunities.
    • It aimed at addressing especially issues of urban street vendors by facilitating them to access institutional credit, new market opportunities, social security, skills improvement and access to suitable spaces.
    • But this programme has not found significant enrolment of beneficiaries (especially in States like Jammu and Kashmir) owing to poor publicity and lack of coordination between departments implementing it.
    • Though some of the States have taken the initiative to provide daily wage employment at least for a few days in the year under this programme, the Central government has not taken steps in that direction.

Why there is a demand for Urban Employment Guarantee scheme?

  • Success of NREGA:
    • The success of the NREGS program during the COVID-19 pandemic as an effective safety employment mechanism utilized by thousands of rural poor households during the lockdown.
  • Lessons from State Scheme:
    • It has widely been reported that the Ayyankali urban employment scheme of the Government of Kerala proved immensely helpful to families that suffered more economic hardships during the pandemic.
    • It led some state governments like Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Odisha to start urban employment schemes last year in their respective states.
  • Parliamentary Standing Committee:
    • A Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour Affairs had recommended to the Union Government, a MGNREGS-like job scheme for urban poor and unemployed youth to recover from massive job and income loss owing to the corona outbreak.
  • Previous Schemes:
    • India has a history of urban employment schemes such as the Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana (SJSRY) and National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM).
    • But none of them were employment “guarantee” schemes.

Can MGNREGA like scheme be a solution to urban unemployment?

In reality, an Urban Employment Guarantee scheme cannot be a mere extension of MGNREGA because of the following reasons:

  • Nature of Unemployment:
    • Rural unemployment is mostly seasonal, but there is no such seasonality in urban unemployment.
    • Providing 100-day employment a year under this scheme seems to be good, but the question arises as to what about the remaining 265 days.
  • Nature of public works:
    • public works involving labour, are quite different in rural and urban areas.
  • Capacities of Institution:
    • Another key difference is the capacity of the Institutions in rural and urban areas.
    • Urban local bodies are poorly funded and have little capacity to provide help.

Case Study (Kerala Model (Ayyankali Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme))

  • Under the Ayyankali Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme launched in 2010, Kerala is providing 100-day employment to the unemployed youth.
  • The scheme offers unskilled work, 50 percent of which will be allotted to women.
  • Under this scheme, works like pruning weeds, removing grass beside roads, planting fruit trees in vacant places and urban roadsides, cleaning drainage channels, disposing of plastic waste, etc., are being undertaken.
  • Inspired by Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand and Odisha also undertook urban employment guarantee schemes.

Way forward:

  • The design of the urban job guarantee scheme should therefore cater to the unpredictable nature of patterns of urban unemployment.
  • It should define who will be eligible and spell out the types of work included in the scheme, indicate where the financing will come from,
  • It should show how local government institutions will implement and monitor the scheme.
  • The states that have taken the lead in implementing urban employment schemes can provide valuable experience.
  • So their achievements and shortcomings need to be thoroughly analyzed to create a good program with a robust administrative mechanism for implementation at the national level.
  • The corporate sector needs to be integrated. The Prime Minister’s Street Vendor Atmanirbhar Nidhi joined hands with Swiggy, Zomato to deliver eateries and breakfast directly to the doorstep of customers. As a result, many urban youths are finding employment. The Central/State governments and urban self-governing bodies have to explore innovative ways like this.
  • It is high time that serious efforts are made to develop and bring out the Act that will help provide a guarantee of work and social security to the urban poor in the current uncertain times cast by the pandemic.
  • The National Employment Policy, which the Union Government is currently working on, should include a National Urban Employment Guarantee Program to ensure a dignified livelihood for the urban poor.

Source: The Hindu BL 

Mains Question:

Q. Why is there a growing demand for urban employment guarantee schemes? Suggest measures to tackle problem of unemployment in urban areas.