Addressing the issue of unemployment and inequality #IMPRI Center for Human Dignity and Development (CHDD), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, organized a talk on “Global Unemployment & Inequality during 1991-2019: Reflections from Secondary data” under the series The State of Development Discourses – #CohesiveDevelopment on February 9, 2022.
The speaker for the session was Prof Ranjit Singh Ghuman, Professor of Eminence, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. The discussants included Dr G. Sridevi, Associate Professor, School of Economics, University of Hyderabad and Prof Vinoj Abraham, Professor, Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Thiruvananthapuram. Prof Sunil Ray, Former Director, A. N. Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Patna; Advisor, CDECS and IMPRI was the moderator for the event.
A Brief Introduction
Prof Sunil Ray, Former Director, A. N. Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Patna; Advisor, CDECS and IMPRI began the discussion by emphasising on the need for re-construction for development. He praised Prof Ghuman’s paper on unemployment and highlighted the importance of this issue w.r.t to migrants, and unemployed people, especially in the informal sector. He also briefly discussed the course of studies in economic theory related to employment starting from the ‘Great Depression’ to Keynes to neo-classical economics and even Fredman’s work on the natural rate of unemployment.
He addressed the ‘Great Depression’ as the ‘Great Recession’. Commenting on the seriousness of the issue he stated that today farmers are agile tomorrow unemployed people would be on the roads and nobody can stop this.
Prof Ranjit Singh Ghuman, Professor of Eminence, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar started his discussion by stating the problem as global and a worldwide issue. He started with the hypothesis that growth, unemployment, and human development are closely knitted and there exists a correlation or multi-collinearity between them. He also stated the distribution of growth benefits as a development paradigm. Prof Ghuman caused the problem by one statement that the world has been experiencing growth over time but there is also ever-increasing inequality. He highlighted the complex issue of the working poor by stating that 77% of the people are living at Rs. 20 per day and mentioned the system getting exposed due to Covid-19.
Moving on to his paper on ‘Status of Unemployment: 1990-2019’ he mentioned the sources for data collection and classification of various countries according to income and per capita for unemployment and inequality respectively. He highlighted the fact that 2017 consumption data wasn’t published on time according to him this was due to hiding the aggregate demand shrinkages which link to ‘Keynes Equation’ where he talked about how lower PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) affects aggregate GDP.
Later he explained the unemployment scenario with various percentages and among multiple categories. Like the gender-wise unemployment ratio and no. of countries in each unemployment rate category. He also presented multiple figures for youth unemployment and the vulnerable and working poor category. He stated that growth rate and per capita don’t address vulnerability and talked about how the vulnerability is higher in upper-middle- and high-income countries.
Talking about inequality he stated that actual figures for countries would be much higher if we factor in multi-dimensional poverty along with income inequality. He questions neo-liberal as the solution for all types of unemployment, poverty, and inequality. He concludes by stating the need for sustainable development in the long run and poverty is a threat to prosperity. He ended by expressing the need to address hypercapitalism.
Technology and its Impact on Unemployment
Prof Vinoj Abraham, Professor, Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Thiruvananthapuram praised Prof Ghuman for his insightful research and expressed how his paper acts as a bird’s eye view of the problem. He started by saying the shift in mechanism for jobless growth by rapidly increasing technology. Compared to the situation in the 1990’s he highlighted how technology has changed and acts as a segregation parameter for the population into different segments.
Across countries, technology is playing an important role in the vulnerable or unemployment paradigm but in India, it may not replace people as technology usage is cost infusive. He highlighted the need to have reserved ages or any social security for people to fall back and get support. He addressed the need for technological intervention in workers’ welfare such as collective bargaining facilities. It is possible to for capital to use technology and build institutional mechanisms required for per-capita into areas of growth benefits.
Need to have access to equal opportunities
Dr G. Sridevi, Associate Professor, School of Economics, University of Hyderabad started the discussion by questioning whether growth alone can solve all problems. She states that economic inequality led to economic segregation or labour discrimination on the basis of gender, race, caste and religion. She highlighted that over years access to higher education has increased but still female labour force participation declined. Despite lower fertility rates and higher education, we still face lower female labour participation rates. According to Prof Sridevi, this could possibly be due to existing gender discrimination, social discrimination and more females involved in unpaid work.
She also suggested that this could be removed if we focus on equal opportunities and efficiency for the same position for both genders. Highlighting the Telangana situation with the lowest unemployment rate but the highest vulnerability she stated why certain groups thrive to remain vulnerable and why are we ignoring the majority. We can’t progress without addressing wealth inequality and the market can’t take care of everything, we need to have equal opportunities and access to all.
While concluding the discussion, Prof Sunil stated that the presence of ‘Power Central Relation’ is suffocating for the general public. There is a dire need to understand the sense of accountability in all aspects and especially youth unemployment. He also focused to address three main issues at the end i.e., firstly, we need to come out of our illusion of the presence of free markets, secondly empirical observations play important role in depicting the reality and cruciality of the problem and lastly through his working paper ‘Birth of an alternative development paradigm’ he presents solutions to address the problem.
Acknowledgement: Sunishtha Yadav is a research intern at IMPRI
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