Until last year, official and private estimates painted a grim picture of job creation — a key election promise of Narendra Modi on the campaign trail in 2014. In January 2018, the government sought to change the narrative. A study commissioned by its own think-tank showed that seven million jobs were created in 2017-18 — closer to the government’s promise of providing 10 million jobs.
The study by two independent researchers analysed provident fund data held by the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) to map job creation in the private formal sector. The study predictably drew much flak from various economists for lack of transparency in computing the numbers. Nevertheless, the government decided to halt all the job surveys by the Labour Bureau and began rolling out the EPFO payroll data on a monthly basis instead. This backfired. The payroll numbers provided by the EPFO are dynamic in nature so the figures of job creation kept being revised downwards — bringing to light another reason the January study was considered unreliable.
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The controversy over job creation data is becoming as serious an issue as job creation itself. But as we move on to 2019, the situation could improve with several official data-sets lined up from the NSSO and the Labour Bureau.