Theme 1: The Employment Challenge

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) adopted in 2015 include full and productive employment and decent work as part of one of the goals to be attained by 2030. While the SDGs are supposed to be applicable to all countries at various levels of development, the notion of full employment as used to developed countries may not be applicable to most of the developing countries, including India. The indicators and targets that are recommended for monitoring performance in this regard also suffer from shortcomings.

The Covid-19 pandemic and consequent lockdown in most parts of the world, both in developed and developing countries, very adversely affected employment and livelihoods. However, the challenge of creating decent employment has been for the last several years in both developed and developing, particularly after the onset of globalization. In most of the developing countries, the crisis has been relatively more acute as these countries also suffer from high incidence of poverty and insecure livelihoods. These countries have a very high level of informal employment. India has about 90 per cent informal workers without any social protection. The informal employment with low productivity has shown persistence over the years in India. Along with this, there has been a slow process of structural transformation, high rate of unemployment of the educated, and a mismatch between education and skills required by the labour market and those produced by the country’s education and training system. Manufacturing has not been the engine of growth in South Asian countries, including India, as happened in the case of East and South-east Asian countries. As a result of the slow growth of productive employment in manufacturing and low employment intensity in the service sector, the informal sector has been the major vehicle of employment in these countries. Meanwhile, new challenges for the future of work are emerging as a result of an increasing shift in technologies, including robotics and artificial intelligence, as well as changes in the organization of production which are developing globally but which are also affecting the Indian labour market. The nature of education and skills required for the labour market with the emergence of new technologies will be very different than earlier.

In the above context, the papers on this theme may address these of the following issues in the global, regional or Indian context. The issues are only illustrative and may cover other issues listed below as well.

  • What is the nature of the employment challenge that the developing countries in general and India in particular are faced with? Are these challenges different from those in the developed economies?
  • How the employment challenges differ across various groups such as women workers, informal workers, unskilled workers?
  • How have the labour market and employment trends been linked to the pace and pattern of growth in developing countries, particularly in India?
  • Why trade liberalization and economic reforms have not helped South Asian and Indian economies to generate more decent employment?
  • Why has manufacturing not emerged as a driver of economic growth and creator of employment in South Asia and India unlike the East Asian and South East Asian Countries? Has technological change destroyed this historically observed capacity of manufacturing to generate jobs for relatively low skilled labour at a rapid pace?
  • What explains the growth of informal employment in the formal sector, particularly in India? Can this trend be reversed without undermining job creation?
  • How gradually the formalization of informal employment can take place? What are its benefits and costs?
  • How can developing countries like India achieve the targets of full productive employment and decent work as envisaged by Sustainable Development Goals?
  • What are the implications of new technologies being adopted gradually in different parts of the world for the future of work? What will be consequences for employment and work in developing countries and India?
  • What are the nature and characteristics of the gig and platform economy and what would be their place in the pursuit of the goal of full employment and decent work? How can the issues relating to workers’ rights and social protection be addressed in the context of such an economy?
  • Is the Fourth Industrial Revolution going to usher in the beginning of the end of work? Which sectors are most likely to be affected and in what ways? What are the likely implications for the overall employment and labour market scenario in countries such India? What are the emerging policy challenges?
  • What would be the implications and consequences of the emerging new technologies and Fourth Industrial Revolution for the World of work? How can the new challenges of responding to the emerging requirements of education and skills be addressed alongside the current challenge of unemployment of the educated in India?
  • How has the COVID-19 Pandemic affected the employment situation in developing countries and India? How has it affected various groups such as informal workers, women workers etc.? What are the emerging policy perspectives?