The proportion of workers in the agriculture sector declined by 3.6% even as the work participation rate rose by less than 1% over the last decade, according to census statistics released by union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde on Tuesday.
The statistics revealed India had registered its sharpest decline in population growth in 90 years over the last decade, the population of women was increasing at a faster pace than men and the improvement in female literacy was higher than males in almost all states.
But it also indicated that the pressure on land in the rural heartland may be pushing farmers out of their land.
The absolute number of cultivators declined from 127 million in 2001 to 118 million in 2011. As a proportion of total workers too, the percentage of cultivators declined by seven points from 31.7% to 24.6%.
At the same time, there was an increase in the proportion of agricultural labourers by 3.5% to 30% of total workers.
“We find there has been a decline among cultivators whereas there has been an increase in agricultural labourers because of land being put to other use,” C Chandramouli, Registrar General of India and Census Commissioner, said.
While most states had witnessed an increase in the total proportion of working population during the last decade, Chandramouli said there were states where the work participation rate had declined including Punjab, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir and Bihar.
The 2011 census classifies workers as main and marginal workers, main workers refer to people who claim to be employed for more than six of the preceding 12 months.
Chandramouli, however, emphasised that a heartening trend that was thrown up was that 81% of 119 million marginal workers reported to have worked for 3-6 months. This means that the proportion of marginal workers who stay unemployed for most of the year has declined.
“This category of 3-6 months is very significant because it shows the impact (of the rural employment guarantee law).. since they have worked for more than 100 days,” the census commissioner said.