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Indian Rural Unemployment is Slowly Becoming a Bad Wound Without Cure.

Indian Rural Unemployment is Slowly Becoming a Bad Wound Without Cure.
Mukul Kumar

Indian Rural Unemployment is Slowly Becoming a Bad Wound Without Cure.

Indian Rural Unemployment is Slowly Becoming a Bad Wound Without Cure. Read this article to get information about Rural Unemployment in India.

Economic growth of a country depends upon the skills of its people and the application of knowledge, inherited or acquired by them. Optimum utilization of human resources undoubtedly leads to a considerable degree of economic development of a country. Unemployed human resources signify that a section of the society is without any source of income. Hence they experience misery and starvation.

Generally, unemployment means an economically active person without any employment. According to Karl Pribram, “Unemployment is a condition of the labor market in which the supply of labor power is greater than the number of available openings.”

As Gillin and Gillin define, “Unemployment is a condition in which a person is able and willing to work normally, dependent upon his earning to provide the necessities of life for himself and family is unable to obtain gainful employment.”

Unemployment in India is structural in nature. In other words, productive capacity is inadequate to create a sufficient number of jobs. This is a chronic phenomenon.

Nature of Rural Unemployment:

India is an underdeveloped though a developing economy. The nature of unemployment, therefore, sharply differs from the one that prevails in industrially advanced countries. Lord Keynes attributes the cause of unemployment to a deficiency of effective demand. But in India, unemployment is mainly due to the shortage of capital, the poor exploitation of natural resources and inadequate employment opportunities. That a large number of ruralites are forced to remain jobless in the rural areas is true beyond dispute.

Types of Rural Unemployment:

It is an indisputable fact that unemployment is found in its severest form in rural India. Broadly speaking, rural unemployment may broadly be classified into three categories namely: (a) open unemployment, (b) concealed or disguised unemployment, and (c) educated rural unemployment.

1. Open unemployment:

So far as open unemployment is concerned; identification of the people without work is an easy task. Agriculture in the Indian context is a seasonal occupation and there is always a heavy demand for labor at the time of sowing, weeding and harvesting whereas, in slack season, demand for labor falls considerably.

The period of seasonal unemployment in India varies from state to state, depending upon the methods of farming, nature of soil and possibility of multiple cropping. In rained agriculture farmers remain unemployed for four or six months in a year. Because of illiteracy, poverty and poor health, they are unable to avail some alternative employment opportunity during this period.

2. Concealed unemployment:

In concealed unemployment, it is difficult to identify an unemployed person. This type of unemployment is also named disguised unemployment. According to the U. N. Committee of Experts,

“The disguisedly unemployed are those persons who work on their own account and who are too numerous relatively to resources with which they work, so that if a number of them were withdrawn to work in other sectors of the economy, the total output of the sector from which they were withdrawn would not be diminished even though no significant reorganisation occurred in this sector.”

According to Prof. Nurkse, the marginal productivity of such workers is zero or even negative. In the absence of irrigation facilities, such people look busy in working on their own land, but in fact, they only relieve other members of their family from work. They contribute nothing to agricultural production.

Disguised unemployment in rural India is 25 percent to 30 percent. It is most prevalent among marginal and small farmers. Here we use the productivity criterion to measure the extent and degree of unemployment.

3. Educated rural unemployment:

The problem of unemployment among the educated rural youth is another major area of concern. The spread of education has created many unemployed young persons who are in search of jobs. But there is no job in the labor market for them. This sort of unemployment leads to very tragic consequences. It breeds frustration among some and discontent among others.

Rural Unemployment

The magnitude of Rural Unemployment:

Accurate figures about the magnitude of rural unemployment are not available. Some figures relating to rural unemployment have been estimated by commissions and committees appointed by the government from time to time.

The National Sample Survey (NSS) of India which conducts periodic surveys to estimate different categories of unemployment usually makes a three-fold classification of unemployment. These are:

(i) The Usual Status Unemployment (USU):

It relates to a person who is considered unemployed but has been trying to get the work. Here we measure it in terms of persons remaining unemployed.

(ii) The Current Weekly Status (CWS):

It relates to a person who has not been able to get employment even for a single hour throughout the week but wants to get the work. It is measured in terms of the number of persons.

(iii) The Current Daily Status (CDS):

CDS refers to the aggregate of all the unemployment days of all persons in the labor force during the week. This is a general concept which includes chronic unemployment and under-employment. It is measured in the number of days during the survey week.

At present, estimates about “Daily Status Unemployment” are considered by the government to be the best indicator of the unemployment situation in the country.

The Sixth Five-Year Plan formulated by Janata Government put the volume of rural unemployment for the year 1978 at 2.00 m usual status, 8.15 m. weekly status and 16.47 m. as daily status.

Despite the efforts of the government to mitigate the extent of rural unemployment, the reality is that the magnitude of rural unemployment has been increasing for a pretty long time.

The new jobs created within agriculture and outside agriculture have not succeeded in absorbing the new entrants into the labor force. Again, the projects started by the government outside agriculture are capital-intensive rather than labor-intensive.

Even in agriculture, some components of the new technology have resulted in a decreased demand for labor. For example, combined harvesters and tractors, in themselves, have reduced the demand for labor. All these factors have led to an increase in the magnitude of rural unemployment.

Causes of Rural Unemployment:

Unemployment, a bane for the ruralites, particularly in a developing country like India, is caused by a number of factors. The major causes responsible for rural unemployment are discussed below.

1. The rapid growth of population:

The growth of population is the principal cause of rural unemployment. Every year population increases by nearly 50 lakh in India. According to Gopalaswami, the annual increase is to the tune of staggering 80 lakh. As the industrial growth of the country does not keep pace with the stupendous rise in population, industrial sector fails to absorb the increasing labor population. As a result of a vast number of people, almost 67.7% of the population, depend on agriculture. This leads to rural unemployment.

2. Pressure on agricultural land:

Ruralites depend largely on agriculture for their livelihood. But cultivable land is limited in supply. Whatever measures are taken to make uncultivable land arable, it is not possible to cater to the needs of the growing demand for land in rural areas. As a result, unemployment prevails in rural areas.

3. Seasonal nature of agriculture:

Agriculture does not engage the cultivators all the year round. Generally, during the sowing and harvesting period, the ruralites are fully employed and the period between the post-harvest and before the next sowing they remain unemployed.

According to Dr. Salter, the farmers in South India are busy only for five months of the year and the rest seven months he whiles away his time doing nothing economically productive. Similar is the case with the peasants all over India. As a result, seasonal unemployment is marked in rural areas.

4. Vagaries of Monsoon:

Agriculture in India largely depends on monsoon. Monsoon being whimsical and unpredictable, agriculture cannot be planned properly. Drought or famine or flood adversely affects agriculture leading to rural unemployment.

5. Sub-division of land:

Agricultural land in India is divided into smaller parts and is in the process of further subdivision as children inherit the property of parents. Sometimes these small plots are scattered far and wide. Due to fragmentation of land agricultural produce falls and land is reduced to an uneconomic holding. As a result, ruralites depending on agriculture are without employment.

6. The traditional method of cultivation:

The traditional method of cultivation adopted by the Indian farmer is unscientific and obsolete. Lack of improved methods of farming, as well as the absence of skilled labor, hampers agricultural output.

Aversion to the use of fertilizer, lack of adequate irrigation facilities and lack of capital to procure modern agricultural tools, seeds and manures affect agricultural production. As a result, rural agriculture loses employment potentiality.

7. The disappearance of traditional occupation:

In Pre- Independent India rural folk were employed mostly in cottage industries. But cottage industries have received a severe setback in the Post-Independent India. Small industries failed to compete with large-scale industries. As a result cottage industries are gradually disappearing and many people are being thrown out of employment.

8. Defective social system:

Joint family tradition prevailing in India often takes the shape of an asylum for the idle and unemployed members. This defective social system encourages rural unemployment.

9. Lack of occupational mobility:

The caste system is a potent factor of rural unemployment in the Indian context. It is an institution of occupational distribution that restricts the occupational mobility of the ruralites. Due to the caste system, an occupation in rural India is hereditary in nature.

If the number of members of a caste increases in comparison to the services demanded, the remaining population becomes unemployed.

10. Disorganisation of agriculture:

Agriculture in India is extremely disorganized and diversified. It follows an inverted economics because the Indian farmer has to willingly invest more to get less. This precipitates rural unemployment.

11. The faulty system of education:

The present system of education undermines manual labor. Educated people develop the aversion to physical labor. Hence the rural youth after the completion of formal education looks for a sedentary job in a government office or a private firm. They are both unwilling and unable to adopt agriculture as their occupation. Hence the present education system contributes to rural unemployment.

12. Poverty:

Poverty and unemployment are interlinked. Because of poverty, the ruralites have no resource for investment. Consequently, they remain unemployed.

13. Lack of employment policy:

Unfortunately, in India, there is no serious effort for manpower planning. So far as our development plan strategy is concerned, employment has not been accorded its due place. It is not linked with the development process under the assumption that economic growth itself would lead to the creation of employment opportunities. But this has failed to bring integration between growth and employment. All these factors account for poverty in general and rural poverty in particular.


The consequences of rural unemployment though less perceptible than urban unemployment, nevertheless, have significant implications for the rural society.

1. Open and disguised unemployment in rural areas lead to huge wastage of human resources. This could have been utilized for the purpose of economic development of the country.

2. Increase in the number of the unemployed increases pressures on land and other scarce natural resources. In the absence of gainful industrial activity in rural areas more and more people fall back upon agricultural activities. This results in further sub-division of already tiny sized holding. This adversely affects agricultural productivity.

3. The unemployed persons in rural areas are unproductive consumers. They merely consume without any contribution to production. In the process, they eat away resources which would have been mobilized for capital formation in the rural sector.

4. The absence of employment opportunities in rural sector forces people to migrate to cities in search of jobs.

5. Migratory population crowds the cities. Slums grow rapidly. The environment gets polluted and cities become dens of vices.

6. A significant impact of migration is observable on the social and family spheres. The joint family system is very much in the process of being disintegrated giving rise to the nuclear family system.

7. Another consequence of rising unemployment is an increase in the number of crimes in the rural sector. In the past, rural life was mostly peaceful but along with the increase in unemployment, criminal activities have registered a sharp increase and rural peaceful atmosphere has been considerably destroyed. Cases of drug abuse and drug pedaling unknown in the past have also increased. This has further aggravated rural unrest.

8. Unemployment falls to generate sufficient resources to maintain the health of the ruralites. Meager food and food devoid of required nutrients such as protein and vitamins reduce immunity against diseases and hence the ruralites fall ill more frequently. Their inability to pay for even minimum medical care reduces the general health status.

9. Unemployment affects the social status, personal life, and sentiments of the unemployed person. It weakens his ambition, blunts his endeavor, saps his self-respect, shatters his hopes and generates guilt that he is failing to provide care and support to his family. Prolonged unemployment makes him either a delinquent or an antisocial.

10. Loss of social status tends to isolate the unemployed person from the existing contacts. His emotional maladjustment and lack of resources affect his family in several ways. Other members are forced to take up work of any kind for their livelihood without any inhibition.

11. Even temporary unemployment has very serious consequences. It results in suicide, forcing women to immoral traffic and withdrawal from social relationships. This acts upon the moral and social life of the individual, family, and community in a very subtle way.

Remedial measures:

The following measures should be adopted for removing rural unemployment.

1. Improvement in the agricultural system:

(a) In order to improve the system of agriculture, steps should be taken to put an end to uneconomic holdings and to prevent the further sub-division of land into even smaller pieces. The scattered portions of land should be consolidated.

(b) The prevailing methods of agriculture do not exploit the natural resources to the fullest extent of their potentiality. The method of intensive cultivation will have to be adopted.

(c) Good seeds, proper tools, and adequate manure should be provided to the farmers to boost agricultural production.

(e) There should be a rotation of crops so that employment can be provided to the ruralites for a longer period.

2. Rainfall in the country is most uncertain:

Again it is confined to a few monsoon months in a year. This accounts for uncertainty in agricultural employment. To remove this uncertainty additional irrigation facility in the form of minor and major irrigation projects should be provided so that the farmers may adopt multiple cropping and remain busy throughout the year.

3. Increasing the cultivable land:

Steps should be taken to convert the barren land into fertile land by scientific methods. Again it is through the scientific methods sandy and rocky land and even marshes and grasslands can be converted into cultivable farmlands.

4. Development of subsidiary industries:

Improvement in agriculture, not supplemented by any other corrective measures, cannot provide employment to the increasing population. The peasant should also get some gainful employment during that period of the year when he is not engaged in cultivation. In order to provide employment to all such people in the off-season, some subsidiary occupations such as dairy farming, poultry farming, horticulture, beekeeping, furniture making, weaving baskets, and ropes etc. should also be developed. For this purpose, they should be provided with adequate finance.

5. Small-scale, labor-intensive industries should be set up to provide employment to the surplus rural labor force.

These industries should take into account the needs and resources of the rural areas. Furthermore, there should be rural industrialization in big villages in the shape of the establishment of large-scale industries. The local labor, as well as other resources, should be utilized to develop these industries.

6. Public construction:

The unemployed ruralites can be provided with work by engaging them in public construction like constructing roads, digging tanks etc. These works should be started only in areas where people are without any work.

7. Minimum need programme:

Minimum need programme should be undertaken in the rural areas. This covers the provision of rural housing, water supply, primary health care, primary education etc. Besides providing employment, such a programme will improve the socio-economic health of the rural society.

8. Arrangement for transport of labor:

In order to provide employment to the rural people arrangement should be made for transport of labor from the areas of thick population to the areas where the density is comparatively less.

9. Organisation of agriculture market:

Favourable conditions for marketing agricultural produce will alleviate the problem of agricultural unemployment. The organization of the agricultural market will increase the income of the cultivator. As a result, the problem relating to rural unemployment will be mitigated to a great extent.

10. Controlling the growth of population:

Efforts should be made to check population explosion so that whatsoever is produced can be available to the existing population and industrial sector can be in a position to give employment to the surplus rural labor. This is how serious problem of rural unemployment will be tackled to a remarkable extent.

In fine, the monster of rural unemployment must be attacked on all fronts and all avenues of gainful occupation must be explored. But it seems to us that side by side with all these efforts if an effective check is not put on India’s ever-growing population, no solution to rural unemployment can be effectively implemented.

The References are taken from Books, Journal and Government report.

Mukul Kumar
Mukul Kumar is pursuing M.A. in Rural Study Development & Management from Patna University. He is more interested in writing, internet, and social work.