1. Introduction.
  2. Briefly state the urban employment scenario.
  3. The role of different employment schemes of governments.
  4. Mention current perspectives & its critique.
  5. Conclusion mentioning a roadmap to gender-responsive policy.

The recently released State of Inequality Report by the Economic Advisory Council has sparked a long standing debate around ‘Urban Job Guarantee Scheme’ and assuring Universal Basic Income scheme. This is specially relevant as the pandemic has ravaged the urban labor markets. In 2020, 8 out of 10 workers had job losses in urban areas.

Urban employment scenario: Survey shows that only 31% individuals in urban areas have a guaranteed number of work-days, while an overwhelming 70% without a guarantee, need at least 100 days of work to sustain. Over 90% of paid women workers work in contact intensive informal jobs. So, a thought of rolling out an Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme in the line of MGNREGA is underway.

Role & success of employment schemes: MGNREGA is often applauded for delivering equal pay & equal work opportunities. It focuses on social equity concerns. It reserves at least 1/3rd of the total workdays for women, has a guaranteed minimum wage policy, provisions for on-site child care facilities, etc. State governments of Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Rajasthan have lead the movement in rolling out state-specific schemes for the urban unemployed.

Himachal Pradesh announced ‘Mukhya Mantri Shahri Ajeevika Guarantee Yojana’ in 2020 to provide 120 days of guaranteed unskilled wage employment to every urban household. It facilitates skill enhancement. It empowers urban households by providing them with subsidies on credit linkages. Odisha introduced “Mukhyamantri Karma Tatpara Programme’ in 2020 to generate temporary labor intensive jobs under the Urban Local Bodies. It aims to solve glaring urbanization and developmental challenges by creating jobs in areas of water conservation, rainwater harvesting and rebuilding urban areas. It also engages rural & urban self-help groups of marginalized women in this endeavor. Similarly, Jharkhand launched ‘Jharkhand Mukhyamantri Shramik Yojana’ to provide work to 5 lakh unskilled urban dwellers for 100 days. Kerala’s ‘Ayyankali Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme’ has successfully provided 100 days of guaranteed unskilled work to every urban household. It has also furthered Female Labor Force Participation Rate in urban areas.

Current perspectives & critique: Urban employment guarantee scheme has been formulated and led by experts like Jean Dreze – suggested a Decentralized Urban Employment and Training scheme that guarantees demand driven employment. It proposed ‘job stamps’ that could be given to approved institutions, which could be converted to one person-day work. Another model proposed by Azim Premji University guarantees 100 days work & an initial rollout within small towns. Both these proposals have emphasized on care-led recovery around women participation.

They are critiqued due to their over dependence on urban local bodies, which itself is inadequate in managing a separate scheme. The budget considerations are too meagre. Also, the effects of minimum wage in urban areas on rural to urban migration would be counterproductive.

Roadmap to gender-responsive policy:

  • Urban employment schemes need to address the safety issues by including provisions like CCTV, functional emergency helplines and regular police patrolling.
  • Reservation of jobs for women. Affirmative – action based policies would go a long way in increasing representation.
  • Addressing gender digital divide will open women to digital opportunities.
  • Time flexibilities to handle their unpaid work responsibilities.

Thus, targeted & gender-sensitive policy response is the way to avoid reversing years of gains in gender-parity and GDP.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish June 7, 2022