The controversial jobs data of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) is likely to be released by the end of the month after the entire data set is examined by an expert panel, officials aware of the move said on Friday. Last month, the government had disputed a report which pegged the unemployment rate at a 45-year high, calling it premature. The government's think tank, NITI Aayog, had then said it was a "draft report" and not final. NITI Aayog vice-chairman Rajiv Kumar had said that the government would release the final report in March. Without giving any release date, the official said the draft report was now being examined by a standing committee. A panel of experts had earlier vetted the report and had arrived at the opinion that the methodology needs to be further examined.
The experts are learnt to have said that the two sets of data cannot be compared as the methodology had undergone a drastic change since 2011-12 when the employment/unemployment survey used to be published once in five years. "We are trying our best. It is likely to be released by the end of March," another ministry of statistics and programme implementation (MOSPI) official said, adding that it would be difficult to provide an exact date for the report's release. The urgency to release the report has increased as the delay has triggered a major controversy, with critics slamming the government for its failure to create 2 crore jobs as promised ahead of the 2014 general elections.
The resignation of two members of the National Statistical Commission (NSC), who said they were bypassed by the government, triggered a major political slugfest over the jobs data amid allegations that the government was not releasing the NSSO report approved in December last year as it had shown a sharp decline in employment post demonetisation. Experts had also rubbished claims that the NSSO’s jobs data needs to be approved by the cabinet. Fresh doubts have also emerged after recent reports said that the government had decided to unveil the results of a jobs survey linked to the MUDRA (Micro Units Development & Refinance Agency) scheme.
The delay in the release of the jobs numbers has emerged as a major issue with over 100 prominent Indian and foreign economists voicing concern over the move to what they said was an attempt to “suppress uncomfortable data.” “In fact, any statistics that cast an iota of doubt on the achievement of the government seems to get revised or suppressed on the basis of some questionable methodology,” according to the letter released on Thursday. The issue of jobs is likely to emerge as a major debating point in the ongoing campaign for the April-May 2019 general elections.