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Almost a million payroll additions in Sept, highest in 13 months: EPFO data

But unending data revisions are raising questions about its credibility

Almost a million payroll additions in September highest in 13 months

The number of people effectively subscribing to Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), or for PF services, peaked in September 2018 with 973,774 net additions to the payroll count in the formal sector.

This is the highest figure since inception of the data in September 2017.

The previous peak was achieved in July (at 932,498). Total payroll additions in 13 months add up to 7.9 million as of now.

However, the EPFO data is subject to revisions in successive months due to irregularities.

The net payroll addition in September 2017 stood at 529,432, as reported in May 2018. 

In July, it was lowered to 499,677, further to be revised to 482,442 in September. In the latest release of November, it has further dropped to 411,027.
On the contrary, successive revisions of April 2018 data – the first month of the financial year – have been upward. It got revised from 580,165 in July to 727,662 in September to 743,125 in November.

The reason, EPFO officials said, is that many companies either stop paying contributions much after an employee leaves the company, or that companies delay EPFO returns.

Almost a million payroll additions in September highest in 13 months
The September 2018 peak could be achieved precisely since the month saw the least “exits” in 13 months for which unique data is available. 

From a peak of more than a million subscribers leaving the EPFO in March, September witnessed only about 250,000 exits.

The EPFO started publishing monthly payroll data from September 2017. 

Initially, net payroll addition was defined as the difference between new subscribers and subscribers that exited. 

Since July 2018, the social security provider changed the definition of net payroll addition to bring in re-joiners to the fold.

Payroll count for previous months, which was getting revised downward in successive data releases, got revised upward after this change. However, it started getting revised downward again.

For example, the September report showed net payroll addition in July 2018 was 951,423. In the November report (latest), it has been revised to 932,498. The revision for June is from 857,934 to 831,872.

Some experts, such as group chief economist at SBI Soumya Kanti Ghosh, have maintained that more than half of the payroll count are new jobs. 

But several experts, including chief statistician of India Pravin Srivastava, have pointed out that EPFO data conveys formalisation of jobs and not employment generation.