Entering the labour force means that you are either employed or unemployed but actively looking for work. India’s labour force was just under 466 million people in 2015.
The labour force participation rate is the total number of employed persons and unemployed persons that are looking for work divided by the total population over 15 years of age.
The total labour force participation rate was 50.3% in 2015, according to the Labour Bureau’s Employment-Unemployment Survey, 2015, down from 52.5% in 2014.
That is, only one out of every two Indians above the age of 15 is either employed or looking for work. At 23.7% in 2015, female labour force participation is even lower, and has been falling for the last decade.
Where does the 12-mn figure come from?
It is true that between 2001 and 2005, on average, roughly 12 million entered the labour force every year. But never since then. 2005 to 2010 saw a drastic decline in the number of people entering the labour force as the female labour force participation declined and a drop in the incidence of casual labour.
The 12-million figure frequently cited is the difference in the average annual change in the size of the total working age population, 15 to 59-year-olds, according to the UN Population Division estimates between 2011 and 2016.
On average, between 2005 and 2015, just under half a million 15 to 17-year olds joined the working age group annually.
Jobs data a big concern So how many people enter India’s labour force every year?
As per World Development Indicators of the World Bank, India had a total workforce of 503.8 million in 2015. Between 2011-2016, on average, India added 6.6 million to the labour force per year.
Thus, using the Labour Bureau’s estimate of the average number of people being added to the workforce every year (just under five million between 2012 and 2015) and the World Bank’s estimate of the average number of people being added to the workforce every year (just under seven million between 2011 and 2016), one can estimate that roughly 5-7 million people are entering the Indian workforce on an annual basis.
Getting data right is imperative to diagnose the scope and scale of India’s jobs challenge and to ultimately and effectively address it.
(IndiaSpend.org is a data-driven public-interest journalism non-profit)