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The Centre could use lakhs of firms registered under the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) as the sample frame to capture employment data through a new Annual Survey of Enterprises, the task force to improve India’s data on jobs set up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recommended.
The traditional Employment-Unemployment Surveys carried out by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) every five years must be scrapped, the task force led by NITI Aayog vice chairman Arvind Panagariya which is expected to submit its report to the Prime Minister’s Office soon, is learnt to have recommended.
The last such survey was carried out in 2011-12 and the one due in 2016-17 was skipped.
Labour force survey
Instead, a new periodic labour force survey (the first one has already begun this April) will be conducted annually to provide estimates of labour force, employment, unemployment, nature of employment and industry. To get more frequent employment trends data, an urban module of this survey will be updated every quarter.
Apart from a new GST-backed Survey approach, the task force — constituted this May amidst criticism about the lack of adequate new jobs in the economy — has called for a fresh definition of formal employment to include any person who gets a Form 16 reflecting income tax deductions at source.
Besides including anyone who is issued a form 16 to reflect income tax deductions at source, the task force has said, “Workers covered under any one of the The Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948 or EPF and miscellaneous Provision Act 1952, government and other public sector employees, workers having coverage under private insurance or pension schemes of PFs,” be considered formal workers.

The task force has reasoned that the GST Network (GSTN) will include enterprises of all sizes in the goods and services sectors with turnover exceeding ₹20 lakh, an official told The Hindu, adding that continuous updating of GSTN will provide for an updated sample frame. Over 80 lakh firms are registered with the GSTN already.

Employment estimates

A subset of the GSTN database-backed surveys could be used to generate monthly or quarterly enterprise-based employment estimates, the task force pointed out. For firms outside the GST net, the Panagariya-led task force has recommended separate annual surveys and an economic census every three years.

A time use survey should also be conducted at three-year intervals to provide data on the time spent in various occupations and non-market activities. If the inputs are implemented, India will be able to generate reliable estimates of a number of critical variables for informed policy making.

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