Although we do not have employment trends from National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) after 2011-12, anecdotal evidence suggests that India’s job challenge might have worsened in this period. The slow pace of job creation inflicts greater suffering on the workforce in an economy. This suffering however is not the same for all workers. Scheduled Castes (SCs), who are at the bottom of the social ladder in India, are among the worst sufferers. Entrenched social discrimination and existing socio-economic realities add to the disadvantages faced by SCs in the labour market.
SCs have the lowest land — the most important productive asset — ownership in India. This makes them more dependent on wage labour.
Statistics prove this point.
According to the 2011-12 NSSO statistics, the share of wage labourers among SCs was 63%. This is significantly higher than the values for other social groups. These figures were 44% for Other Backward Classes (OBCs), 42% for upper castes and 46% for the rest. Even among wage labourers, SCs have a much greater share of casual wage workers, which signifies higher job insecurity and poor earnings. The share of casual wage labour was 47 percent for SCs compared with one third for OBC/higher caste /rest, and all India average. In fact, of the total casual labourers in the country, about 32 percent are SC, which is double their population share of 16 percent.
The disadvantage faced by SCs extends beyond their disproportionate dependence on wage work. Because, SCs face caste-based discrimination in hiring, they also have a greater unemployment rate than the rest of the population. According to the latest NSSO statistics, the unemployment rate among SCs was 1.7 percentage points higher than the all-India average. SCs have had the highest unemployment rate in India since the 1990s