ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Aspects of Poverty and EmploymentSubscribe to Aspects of Poverty and Employment

On Calibrating the Poverty Line for Poverty Estimation in India

This paper examines the issue of the appropriateness of using National Sample Survey 28th round data for setting the official base year poverty line. The poverty lines, as per the alternative base years according to the data of NSS 27th and 26th rounds, which are based on much larger sample sizes, are found to be significantly higher. The paper also brings out the fact that the rural-urban difference in the average daily per capita calorie requirement of the Indian population as per the official statistical system narrows significantly with the suggested change in the classification of worker population, which is by no means unrealistic or unwarranted.

Rural Unemployment 1999-2005: Who Gained, Who Lost?

There is an overall rise in rural unemployment, in terms of both total and partial failure to find work during the reference week, between the 55th (1999-2000) and 61st (2004-05) round employment surveys of the National Sample Survey. This is something of a puzzle given the reported rise in monthly per capita rural expenditure between the two rounds. The decline in unemployment among males with secondary school or higher education, relative to illiterate males, suggests that the rise in rural prosperity closely matches the pattern of access to rural school facilities. Of the four disadvantaged groups tested for, scheduled tribes face the highest incremental unemployment, which remains unchanged into the 61st round. This is an important pointer to the required regional configuration of workfare programmes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, and for the spread of rural schools.

Employment and Poverty in India, 2000-2005

This paper is principally focused on the changes in the size and structure of the workforce and the changes in labour productivity, wages and poverty in India in the first quinquennium of the 21st century. The period between 2000 and 2005 saw a sharp acceleration in workforce growth, and, on the obverse side, a slowdown in the rate of growth of labour productivity across most sectors and in the economy as a whole, and, a slowdown (a decline) in real wage growth in rural (urban) India. Consistent with the trends in labour productivity and real wages, relative to the 1994-2000 period, the pace of poverty reduction between 2000 and 2005 shows, at best, a marginal acceleration (or a marginal deceleration, depending on the choice of poverty lines) in rural India and a clear slowdown in urban India. This period also saw a small rise in the number of working poor and a substantial rise in the number of self-employed and regular wage/salary workers in the "above poverty line" households.

Neoliberalism and Rural Poverty in India

Many economic and social indicators suggest that not only is the level of absolute poverty in India high, there has also been an adverse impact of neoliberal policies on poverty. And yet, the poverty estimates by the Planning Commission and many individual academics, both using a method that renders irrelevant the question of a nutrition norm, show low levels as well as decline in poverty over the 1990s and beyond. This article proves that both comparisons over time of the all-India and state-level estimates of poverty as well as any comparison at a point in time of poverty levels across states, obtained by this method, are invalid. Using a direct poverty estimation route of inspecting and calculating from current National Sample Survey data the percentage of persons not able to satisfy the nutrition norm in calories, the author finds that in 1999-2000 nearly half of the rural population who are actually poor have been excluded from the set of the officially poor. For 2004-05, while the official estimate of rural poverty is 28.3 per cent, the author's direct estimate of persons below the poverty line is 87 per cent. There is clear evidence of a large and growing divergence over time between the author's direct estimates of poverty and the official indirect estimates.
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