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India cuts funding on rural jobs scheme to 600 billion rupees in 2023/24

(Reuters) - The Indian government cut back the spending on the rural jobs guarantee scheme for the next fiscal year to 600 billion rupees ($7.34 billion), the budget document showed on Wednesday.

The allocation is lower than the revised 894 billion rupees spending outlay for 2022/23, and the smallest since 2017/18.

Under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, introduced over 15 years ago, citizens can enrol for work such as building roads, digging wells, or creating other rural infrastructure and receive a minimum wage for at least 100 days each year.

About 37 million workers were looking for work in December due to a rebound in the labour force participation rate driven by the return of women workers and rural youth joining the labour market as fears of the pandemic eased. In December, India's unemployment rate rose to 8.30%, the highest in 16 months, from 8.00% in the previous month, according to data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE).

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The Narendra Modi administration has been criticised for the higher unemployment rate in the economy since it came to power in 2014.

($1 = 81.7140 Indian rupees)

(Reporting by Nikunj Ohri; writing by Siddhi Nayak; Editing by Dhanya Ann Thoppil)