Employment, Livelihoods & Interim Union Budget 2024-25

Press Release

Nadiya Murshed

The IMPRI Center for Work and Welfare (CWW),  IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, hosted an interactive panel discussion on the topic “Employment, Livelihoods & Interim Budget 2024-25” on 3 February 2024, under the IMPRI 4th Annual Series of Thematic Deliberations and Analysis of Union Budget 2023-24, as part of IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

The budget panel discussion was chaired by Professor Suchita Krishnaprasad, a former associate professor and Head of Department at the Economics department of Elphinstone College in Mumbai. To start, Prof. Krishnaprasad provided an overview of the budget, acknowledging that while the pandemic triggered the largest decline in India’s GDP, the country has still made progress of 6-7%.

She discussed technological advancements like modern ECG devices and mobile apps to detect lung infections. However, she lamented India’s poor human development rankings and high income inequality. Prof. Krishnaprasad highlighted India’s unfavorability for foreign investment and the huge infrastructure spending that has constrained social programs. She praised the introduction of AI in markets but noted the resulting difficulty in finding skilled labor.

Dr. Sandhya S. Iyer of the prestigious TISS Institute focused on the concept of an advanced India by 2047. On one hand, this vision for an inclusive nation covering the elderly, youth, women and disabled is admirable. However, she critiqued a lack of clarity on practical steps for job creation and real wage growth to truly empower these groups. Without tangible programs and metrics on employment, rhetoric on inclusion rings hollow she implied. She also lamented the lack of recognition of India’s dual economies, a complex challenge needing tailored solutions.

Mr. Sandeep Chandra, the next panelist, focused specifically on the impact on farmers. He highlighted the government’s plans to construct 20 million new houses under the PMAY scheme. While ambitious, this indicates much more housing is still needed to properly serve India’s massive population.

The rooftop solar initiatives align with critical clean energy goals for a rapidly developing nation like India. But he also addressed a key vulnerability of farmers and fishing communities – climate change impacts. As heatwaves, floods and other extreme weather events worsen due to climate change, these frontend workers face wage losses and other hardship. So he praised the budget’s inclusion of compensation funds to support these groups when disasters hit, helping them cope with income losses resulting from events outside their control.

Prof. Swarna Sadashivam Vepa, a visiting professor of economics, provided a perspective anchored in data on women’s increasing participation in the labor force. She noted both rural and urban self-employed women workers now exceed levels even in China. So, India is making significant strides on this social indicator. However, another trend is concerning – declining agricultural productivity, which keeps farmer incomes depressed. So budgets must continue targeting support for small holder farmers to help transform the agricultural sector.

Prof Randhir Singh Rathore, a planning and policy expert, zeroed in on the shortage of institutes focused on skills training. With inadequate practical skill building, India’s youth cannot maximize their potential. So he applauded initiatives in the budget targeting jobs through construction and tourism which don’t require advanced degrees but provide livelihoods. Expanded funding for research and development can also create economic ripple effects benefiting small enterprises. And artisans need sustained support via programs like the PM Vishwakarma scheme.

Last panelist, Prof Ranjit Singh Ghuman uniquely couched his commentary by labeling the budget as politicized rather than pragmatic. Through the lens of rural development, he identified declines in GDP under the NDA government as a troubling indicator. Those abandoning agriculture often struggle to secure non-farm work. With rural economies thereby shrinking and groundwater depletion emerging in India’s north, substantial course correction is needed he implied. Without prudent planning, speeches will ring hollow.

In sum, the budget discussion spanned positive views to constructive critiques. While technological gains and social initiatives drew praise, economists worried about persistent inequality, agricultural challenges, and lagging job creation. The mix of optimism for initiatives like skills training and renewable energy with troubling signs like GDP declines underscores the complex, uneven nature of India’s development. With more holistic, inclusive policymaking, strong progress can continue, overcoming remaining hurdles. India’s diversity necessitates tailored solutions tackling unique regional and sectoral barriers. But its promise and recent advances highlight cause for hope.

Lastly, the Q&A session covered issues like green technology, fiscal prudence, and economic multipliers. Professor Suchita Krishnaprasad concluded the event by extending gratitude to the IMPRI team for successfully hosting the panel discussion and ensuring its smooth execution.

IMPRI’s 4th Annual Series of Thematic Deliberations and Analysis of Interim Union Budget 2024-25

Watch the event at IMPRI #Web Policy Talk

Nadiya Murshed is a research intern at IMPRI.