How Comparable are India’s Labour Market Surveys?

Azim Premji University,

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Abstract

The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy’s (CMIE) Consumer Pyramid Household surveys have emerged as an important source of regular labour market data for India. Given the differences in methods in data collection between the CMIE and official employment sources, it becomes exceedingly important to establish some comparability between the government and the CMIE datasets. With the release of the official labour surveys, Periodic Labour Force Surveys for 2017 – 18, we now have an overlap between the official datasets and CMIE datasets. In this paper, we examine the extent of comparability of labour force estimates from these two datasets. We find that employment estimates for men are broadly comparable. However, for women, there is a consistent divergence with CMIE estimates of women’s workforce participation lower than that of NSS-PLFS. We explore the points of divergence in the measurement of women’s work and hypothesise some potential reasons for this difference. We find that irrespective of the reference period used in the PLFS estimation of employment statuses, there is no convergence with the CMIE employment estimate for women’s employment. Moreover, the mismatch in CMIE-PLFS estimates occurs across all types of women’s employment and irrespective of what reference period of employment (in official data) is used.