The Indian Express | 5 days ago | 23-11-2022 | 05:45 am
Agricultural workers in the states of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh get the lowest daily wages in the country at a time when inflation is at an elevated level and interest rates are on the rise.According to data compiled by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), in Madhya Pradesh, male agricultural workers in rural areas got a daily wage of just Rs 217.8 while in Gujarat, it worked out to Rs 220.3 in the year ended March 2022. Significantly, daily wages in both the states are below the national average of Rs 323.2.If a rural farm worker gets work for 25 days in a month in Gujarat, his monthly earning will be around Rs 5,500 per month which may not be sufficient to meet the expenses of a family of four or five people. However, a rural farm worker in Kerala, which pays the highest wage among states, gets an average of Rs 18,170 for 25 days work in a month.The financial year 2021-22 was bad for the rural economy with the Covid pandemic hitting the jobs and income levels. In the case of MP, the monthly wage for a farm worker would have been around Rs 5,445. Among other poorly paid states, in Uttar Pradesh, rural farm workers got an average daily wage of Rs 270, Maharashtra Rs 284.2 and Odisha Rs 269.5 in 2021-22.Kerala leads in highly paid agricultural workers with an average wage of Rs 726.8 per worker. The high wages in Kerala have attracted farm workers from other poorly paid states with around 25 lakh migrant workers reportedly living in the state.In Jammu & Kashmir, farm workers get an average wage of Rs 524.6, Himachal Pradesh Rs 457.6 and Tamil Nadu Rs 445.6 per person.According to the RBI data, in the case of male non-agricultural workers, the lowest wage was in MP with an average wage of Rs 230.3 while Gujarat workers got a daily wage of Rs 252.5 and Tripura Rs 250 — all below the national average of Rs 326.6.On the other hand, Kerala again leads in non-agricultural workers’ wages with Rs 681.8 wage per person. Kerala was followed by J&K with Rs 500.8, Tamil Nadu Rs 462.3 and Haryana Rs 409.3 for the year ended March 2022.Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh are again below the national average of Rs 373.3 in the case of rural male construction workers. Gujarat rural construction workers got an average wage of Rs 295.9, MP Rs 266.7 and Tripura Rs 250.Daily wage for rural construction workers was Rs 837.7 in Kerala, Rs 519.8 in J&K, Rs 478.6 in Tamil Nadu and Rs 462.7 in Himachal Pradesh, as per the RBI data.According to a Crisil study, rural income prospects remain dependent on the vagaries of weather. “Increasing frequency of extreme weather events, therefore, remain a key monitorable. While lowering of demand for MGNREGA jobs is an encouraging sign for the rural economy from a job perspective, depressed wages are a matter of concern for rural demand,” it said.Rural jobs are dependent on agriculture which in turn is influenced by monsoon and rabi and kharif production. “Wage growth for agricultural and non-agricultural labourers remained muted during the year, averaging 4.4 per cent and 3.6 per cent, respectively, during May 2021-February 2022, on account of subdued demand conditions coexisting with lower rural inflation. However, agricultural wage growth picked up to 6.0 per cent in February 2022 from a low of 1.1 per cent in June 2021, while non-agricultural wage growth increased to 6.1 per cent in February 2022 from 0.2 per cent in May 2021, partly reflecting unfavourable base effects,” said the RBI’s Annual Report for 2021-22.