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Women have withdrawn from the labour force despite strong growth: Yoshiteru Uramoto

Feb 27, 2013

Yoshiteru Uramoto, Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, ILO, was in Delhi recently to release the ILO's flagship report 'Global Employment Trends 2013'. He tells OneWorld that despite India’s robust growth, the country is witnessing youth unemployment as well as lack of participation of women in the labour market.

Yoshiteru Uramoto

OneWorld: You said that the ILO has to push forward the agenda on ‘Decent Jobs for All.’ In the Indian context what do you mean by this?

Yoshiteru Uramoto: Decent jobs or decent work did come up as an agenda in our meeting. In the Indian context, we are talking about contract labour and people working in the informal sector. We feel that their jobs are sub-optimal and we say they are not decent enough. We are talking about jobs without social protection, job security, or minimum wages and in the case of women particularly—issues of security. There should be an element of decency for the female workforce.

OneWorld: The report, the Global Employment Trends 2013, says that India has one of the highest GDP growth rates in Asia, but despite that there is jobless growth. Why is that happening?

Uramoto: We refer to jobless growth in a period in which GDP growth in India reached 9 per cent or sometimes even 10 per cent. We have done an assessment with the Government of India and one of the findings is that this robust growth only resulted in a small rise in total employment. A key issue is that a great number of women withdrew from the labour force at a time when growth was strong.

One World: But why is that happening? This sounds very paradoxical.

Uramoto: We associate the fall in employment to a number of factors. One is that there is a high urban concentration of youth unemployment. There are opportunities only for a section of the population and not for everyone. Some households may have experienced increases in income, which encouraged the withdrawal, while more and more young men and women went on for higher studies and opted out of work. But, we have to get experts to give more information and to get to the actual reasons we need to dig deep into this issue.

OneWorld: You also said that the youth unemployment rate is high everywhere. Why is this so high because young people are easy to find, are easy to train and are inexpensive?

Uramoto: Well, it is somewhat similar to reasons that you have in India. Economies of some of the countries, like in the Arab region, where the youth population is high, are not generating adequate jobs. Countries where you have a large youth population, we refer to as youth bulge.When youth bulge is not accompanied with economic growth, and growth that does not create opportunities for jobs, naturally there is a gap. And it is young people who are affected. Globalisation, the economic recession in a number of countries, and when the drivers of the global economy like Europe, the US, Japan, China and India slow down, employment opportunity also slows down.

In Arab countries, it is complicated but the youth are hit. Some people also say these are issues of governance. Young people are educated, when they do not get a job, what do you do? You complain. You are not happy with it. You are asking everyone around you to give them a job. The first target often becomes the government. That is where we are.

OneWorld: The report that you launched talks of South Asia and India in particular. If the ILO has to recommend to India about the creation of a decent workplace, what are your suggestions?

Uramoto: I think there are two main areas—one is that you need a government which pushes for growth. I think no government is sparing efforts to make the economy grow and there are a lot of policy issues involved in this. The fiscal policy, the monetary policy, the employment policy, the macro and micro policies, and we are suggesting that these policies have to be consistent. There has to be somebody who has to be looking at these policies. Even legal actions so that there can be a synergy in creating employment.

We feel that jobs and employment should be the drivers that should be impacting policy makers, legislature, parliament, politicians, employers’ organizations and trade unions to create jobs for the people. Not just a simple job, but jobs that are decent jobs. Asia has shown tremendous growth. China has pulled 300 million people out of poverty; Bangladesh won’t take much time to catch up and India too has achieved a very high growth rate.

We believe at the ILO that these high economic gains have to be translated into social gains. After all, the human capital makes the economy grow. It serves two purposes – better skills, social protection and faster growth, sustainability and continuity. So, the contribution that the workers have made towards raising productivity, leads to contributing towards growth and this raises internal demand for consumption. So, let people participate in internal demand creation.

This is the broad policy advice that the ILO has provided a number of countries that have achieved tremendous growth in the past decade in order to improve the employment outcomes and the opportunities for ‘Decent Work for All’.

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