PLFS Data Unveils Widening Gap: Religious Minorities Face Steeper Decline in Regular Wage Employment

Muslim workers experienced the most substantial drop of 6.8 percentage points, Christians saw a 3.2 percentage point decline and the Sikh community witnessed a 2.5 percentage point decrease.
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Representational ImagePic- Muslim Mirror

New Delhi: Over the past five years, there has been a constant decline in the percentage of religious minorities engaged as regular wage employees if compared to the majority Hindu population.

The troubling trend has been brought to the fore by the Business Standard’s ‘Periodic Labour Force Survey’ (PLFS).

It reveals a significant decrease in the percentage of regular wage employees among religious minority groups such as Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs when contrasted with the majority Hindu population over the last five years.

The data indicates a significant drop in the proportion of Muslim workers engaged in regular wage employment, which fell from 22.1% in 2018-19 to 15.3% in 2022-23, representing a substantial 6.8 percentage point decline. 

Similarly, Christians experienced a decline of 3.2 percentage points, with only 28% being employed in regular jobs in 2022-23, down from 31.2% in 2018-19.

The Sikh community also witnessed a notable decrease of 2.5 percentage points, as the share of the community workers engaged in wage employment declined to 26% in 2022-23, down from 28.5% in 2018-19.

In contrast, the majority Hindu community experienced the least deterioration in employment. In 2022-23, 21.4% of Hindu workers were engaged in regular salaried jobs, reflecting a modest decrease of 2.3 percentage points from the 23.7% reported in 2018-19.

The analysis further stated that the overall share of workers engaged in wage or salaried employment has seen a decline, decreasing from 23.8% in 2018-19 to 20.9% in 2022-23.

In terms of the Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR), there has been a slight increase for Muslims (32.3% in 2018-19 to 32.5% in 2022-23).

Conversely, for Hindus, the LFPR has shown a more substantial increase (from 38.2% to 44.5% during the same period). 

The LFPR signifies the percentage of individuals in the labor force, including those employed, actively seeking employment or available for work, within the population.

This decline in wage employment has led to a rise in both self-employment, encompassing unpaid household labor or small business ownership and casual work across various communities.

While self-employment has increased among all religious groups, the share of casual workers has specifically risen within the Muslim community. In 2022-23, approximately 26.3% of Muslim workers were engaged as casual laborers, up from 25.7% in 2018-19.

This contrasts with other religious groups such as Hindus, Sikhs and Christians, which have witnessed decline in the percentage of the population involved in casual labor.

The Mooknayak talked to Professor Mohammad Sajjad, who teaches at Aligarh Muslim University, about the analysis and the probable causes.

“This data requires a thorough investigation by the government or any third-party agency. Without that, it will be difficult to give an opinion on the cause,” he said.

He urged political parties to analyse the findings and review the probable causes. “The fall in the number of wage earners is a serious concern, and the government must find the reason behind it,” he said.

He remarked, “When we think of the last five years, the pandemic comes to mind. But the global chaos was for everyone. If we look at the data, the Muslim community has fallen far behind.”

“During the pandemic,” he explained, “Muslim retailers were specifically targeted. Their economic boycott could be a plausible cause”.

The ongoing communal tensions in various parts of the country and the subsequent appeals for boycotting goods and employment of individuals from specific communities likely contributed to the decline in the reported numbers.

During Mumbai's Mira Road communal clashes in January 2024, business establishments belonging to the Muslim community were targeted. Right-Wing groups keep on calling for an economic boycott of the community.

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