Surveying India's unemployment numbers -Mahesh Vyas
India’s labour participation rate, very low by world standards, fell sharply after demonetisation. Women bore the brunt
Monthly measurement of the unemployment rate is one of the requirements of the Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The SDDS — India was one of the early signatories —was established in 1996 to help countries access the international capital markets by providing adequate economic and financial information publicly. India complies with many requirements of the SDDS, but it has taken an exception with respect to the measurement of unemployment.
The Government of India does not produce any measure of monthly unemployment rate, nor does it have any plans to do so. Official plans to measure unemployment at an annual and quarterly frequency is in a shambles. This does not befit India’s claims to be the fastest growing economy and as the biggest beneficiary of a famed demographic dividend.
The Centre for Monitoring India Economy (CMIE), a private enterprise, has demonstrated over the past three years that fast frequency measures of unemployment can be made and that seeking an exception on SDDS compliance is unnecessary.
Higher frequency survey
The CMIE decided to fill India’s gap in generating fast frequency measures of household well-being in 2014. In its household survey, called the Consumer Pyramids Household Survey (CPHS), the sample size was 172,365 as compared to that of the official National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), which was 101,724. In both surveys, the sample selection method has been broadly the same.
The CPHS is comprehensive, surveying its entire sample every four months. Each survey is a wave. The CPHS is also a continuous survey, and so, for example, three waves are completed in a year. The CMIE’s CPHS thus has a much larger sample and is conducted at a much higher frequency than the NSSO’s.
Further, the CPHS is conducted as face-to-face interviews necessarily using GPS-enabled smartphones or tablets. Intense validation systems ensure high fidelity of data capture. All validations are conducted in real-time while the teams are in the field. The data capture machinery ensures delivery of high quality data in real time obviating the need for any further “cleaning”, post field operations.
Once the data is collected and validated in real-time, it is automatically deployed for estimations without any human intervention.
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