NSSO data: Why Indian Muslims rely on self-employment

The findings from the the latest National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) only reaffirm the connection between poor levels of education and rate of unemployment among Muslim population, say experts who have studied the socio- economic patterns of the community.

According to the NSSO, although the unemployment rate in the community has dropped — 2.3 percent in 2004-05 to 1.9 percent in 2009-10 in rural areas and from 4.1 percent to 3.2 percent in urban areas — majority of Muslims are still not part of the salaried workforce.

At 46 percent, Muslims form the biggest chunk of population in urban areas with self employment as the main source of earning. In contrast, only 30.4 percent Muslims form the urban work force, the lowest in the salaried category among the various communities.

Rakesh Basant, professor, economics at IIM, Ahmedabad and former member of the Sachar committee which analysed the conditions of Muslims in India, attributed poor education levels to large self employment rates in the community.

 NSSO data: Why Indian Muslims rely on self-employment

Image used for representational purposes only. Reuters

Muslims belonging to various strata believe that education is the way upward and enrollment rates among the community is going up, but lack of educational facilities remain a hurdle, said Basant.

“There are not many good schools in Muslims neighbourhood and that of many marglinalised communities. This is a problem in supply side. Participation in education goes up when supply of educational institutions is addressed.”

When provided with good education opportunities, Basant said, Muslims show better results than other communities.

"It is not easy to assess the return to education. What we know is that if the same set of education is provided to various communities and groups, Muslims are able to utilise it better as compared to other groups. Their return to education has remained one of the highest."

Proportion of Muslims with self employment as the main source of earning dropped from 61 percent in 2004- 2005 to 54 percent in 2009- 2010. However, the argument that the majority of the community remained confined to self employment is evident from the findings that the share of the Muslim community in regular-waged employment saw a marginal increase the same period —13 percent to 13.5 percent.

Professor Abusaleh Shariff, Centre for Research and Debates in Development policy, New Delhi and a visiting scholar to US India Policy Institute Washington DC, relates poverty with lack of educational opportunities which acts as a stumbling block for the community when it comes to getting employment in urban sector. The poor financial condition of Muslims is also reflected in the NSSO which found that the household monthly per capita consumer expenditure (MPCE) was lowest among Muslims.

The other deciding factor, according to Shariff, is the bias against the community which stops it from perceiving salaried jobs as a source of earning.

“They do not get jobs as per qualifications, both due of market imperfections and also due to bias in the system. Even in rural area, they do not even get employment under the NREGA,” said Shariff.

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Updated Date: Aug 20, 2013 19:26:07 IST