The skewed numbers of MGNREGA EMPLOYMENT can be traced to the demonetization of INR 500 and 1000 currency notes. This monetary change shattered cash-dependent enterprises, and may have spurred the subsequent net additions in the job card numbers. The impact of demonetization was especially evident in the year 2020-21, with the addition of more than 17.5 million job cards in the pandemic year. As a result, demonetization may have contributed to a distress-driven demand for NREGA employment.

MGNREGA has provided a safety net for workers during economic downturns. During the pandemic, youth were left out of the labor market and suffered higher proportion of job losses. Data provided by EPFO shows that these young workers were hit disproportionately hard by the crisis. While the MGNREGA has helped to boost the employment situation, it is not the panacea. This scheme has a long way to go to help the poorest sections of the population.

The MGNREGA Act was enacted by the Government of India in September 2005. It is the first government policy of its kind in the world and aims to provide employment to rural households on a remunerative basis. The MGNREGA programme includes a series of steps – registration, plan formulation, timely payment of wages, grievance redress mechanism, periodic meetings and periodic reviews.

MGNREGA workers reported uneven wages. Despite claiming a minimum wage, many were paid below it. Some even received part of their wages in advance. While the MGNREGA program is a welcome relief, it is essential that the trade unions work with the government to resolve the problem of uneven MGNREGA wage distribution. They must convince poor workers that their wages will be paid on time.

Moreover, the MGNREGA programme has contributed to the reduction of poverty and hunger. By providing employment for people who have no other options, it has increased food security, per capita expenditure and savings. In fact, a global research organization reported that rural spending growth surpassed that of urban consumption for the first time in twenty-five years. A real large part of this growth has been attributed to MGNREGA.

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