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Arun Jaitley’s Remark on Unemployment and Social Unrest Reveals a Disturbing Lack of Knowledge in The Modi Govt

“If there is no job creation, as alleged, there should have logically been great social unrest in the country,” he had tweeted.

With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it is often difficult to differentiate between malicious lies and plain ignorance. Former finance minister Arun Jaitley is no exception to this rule.

Jaitley, on February 1, had said that “If there is no job creation, as alleged, there should have logically been great social unrest in the country. Past five years have passed off without a single major protest movement.”

Jaitley’s statement is patently false as there are enough mainstream research studies that link joblessness to social unrest. Several experts have pointed out, time and again, the effect of unemployment on a country’s social fabric.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO)’s Word Employment and Social Outlook report provides a social unrest index — a proxy for expressed discontent with the socio-economic situation in countries The report notes that unemployment is a significant contributor of unrest. “While labour market problems are far from being the only driver of social unrest, they nevertheless represent an important component,” said the report.

Last year, Arun Maira, the former India Chairman of Boston Consulting Group and a former member of the Planning Commission, had highlighted that “jobless growth” could lead to social unrest in India. “The growth of the country should not be measured by GDP alone, but by the quality of jobs, livelihood and jobs that are created,” he had said, reported Hindustan Times.

Also Read: Demonetisation, GST Killed Jobs: CWS Approach Shows Unemployment Rate Stood At 8.9% in 2017-18

In 2015, according to an article in The Hindu, Noriyuki Suzuki, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation – Asia Pacific (ITUC-AP) had said that the root causes of social unrest in many parts of the world were acute unemployment, especially youth unemployment, and income disparity

But even with the presumption that joblessness does not automatically cause social unrest, Jaitley’s statement still manages to confound. Several protests have been organised in the country by youths discontented with the state of unemployment in the country. In one such protest, people had sold pakodas to lambast the Prime Minister’s now-famous remark. Swaraj India National vice president Anupam also pointed out some employment-related protests in a tweet.

Jaitley’s remarks had followed the Business Standard report on the leaked National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) periodic labour force survey which shows that unemployment rate in the country increased to a forty five-year high of 6.1 per cent in 2017-18. The unreleased data reportedly also shows that labour force participation rate (LFPR) – the proportion of working-age population still in the workforce – went down from 39.5 per cent in 2011-12 to 36.9 per cent in 2017-18.

Ashutosh Varshney, Sol Goldman Professor of International Studies and Director, Center for Contemporary South Asia, Brown University, who has earlier spoken up in support of the Narendra Modi government, also took a dig at Jaitley’s remark saying, “This statement should go down as a cabinet minister not knowing anything about decades-long research on social unrest.”

Also Read: #IndiaUnites Agitation Enters Day Six; Read to Find Out What Thousands From Across The Country Are Protesting

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