20% of informal workers remain unemployed post-lockdown: Survey

(This story originally appeared in on Jan 27, 2021)

NEW DELHI: A new study tracking around 2,800 informal workers during the pandemic found more than two thirds of those employed in February 2020 had lost work during the lockdown and six months later nearly 20% remained unemployed – indicating that while jobs were regained, employment is below pre-Covid levels.

The 20% workers had not found even one day of work in the month preceding the survey.

The findings are based on a second round of survey as part of a study titled “How robust is the recovery? Tracking informal workers through the pandemic” carried out by Azim Premji University in collaboration with six civil society organisations. The first round was carried out in April-May.

The findings of the second round between October to December across 12 states show that in terms of relief measures while the food grains under the Public Distribution System reached a significantly high 9 of 10 households holding a ration card, half of the households that received grains have not yet attained pre-lockdown food consumption levels. Also three-fourths of the BPL households received less grains than their entitled quantity.

During the first round of survey in April-May, 9 in 10 households reported cutting back on food consumption during the lockdown. Six months later while things have changed, only one-third reported that consumption was back at pre-lockdown levels. “Urban households are worse off with 28% reporting that food consumption was still at lockdown levels as against 15% of rural households,” said the survey.

The findings suggest that a continued expanded allocation for MGNREGA, as well as the introduction of an urban employment scheme in the upcoming budget are crucial for addressing this livelihood crisis. They also highlight the urgent need to expand the scope of the current PDS provisioning alongside an adequate security net for those who have suffered the most during this crisis.

The first round of survey had covered 4942 workers, two-third of whom had lost work during lockdown. Earnings of self-employed persons dropped by 86% and urban casual labour by 53%. Eight in 10 people were eating less food than before.

In the second round, they re-interviewed 2778 persons mostly working in the unorganised sector who were part of the first round in April – May to make the comparison and analyse recovery trends. The survey was carried out in Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra (Pune), Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Pune in Maharashtra.

The survey covered self – employed women, farmers, NREGA workers, migrants, street vendors and casual wage as well as regular wage workers who were predominantly engaged as domestic help, security guards or working in the services sector.

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