The number of enrolments in the Employees Provident Fund between September 2017 and March 2018 is much less than what the government had quoted in May.
Data released by the government on May 25 showed that 39.95 lakh people enrolled in the fund between September 2017 and March 2018. On June 25, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation whittled down the numbers to 34.40 lakh for the same period. Enrolment figures for each month from September to March have been cut by 6% to 21%.
Two unidentified government officials told The Indian Express that such a sharp revision was surprising, despite the fact that duplicate enrolments would have been removed from the fund’s data. “The ministry has written to the EPFO asking for the reason [for the revision] but there is no reply yet,” one of the officials said.
The gap between the initial enrolment numbers and those released on June 25 also widened every month from November to March.
A study, titled Towards a Payroll Reporting in India, released in January had said that 70 lakh formal jobs would be created in the 2017-’18 financial year, and used estimated EPFO data to make this prediction. The study was cited by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget speech on February 1.
“The numbers are provisional and are bound to be updated,” State Bank of India Chief Economic Advisor Soumya Kanti Ghosh, who co-authored the study, said. “The EPFO is releasing enrolment numbers on a net basis, so it might be the case that companies are reporting leaving of employees with a lag, while the joining of employees is being reported immediately. This is a good sign, it indicates a churn in the employment cycle.”