About one out of every five workers from the informal sector are either out of the labour market or are currently unemployed, a new survey by the Azim Premji University for the post-lockdown October-December 2020 period said.
The survey found that more than two-thirds (69%) of those employed in February last year had lost work during the lockdown. Six months later, nearly 20% were still out of work; they did not find even a single day of work in the month preceding the survey.
In April and May last year the university partnered with ten civil society organisations for a telephonic survey across several major states to measure the impact the COVID-19 lockdown had on livelihoods and of the knowledge of and access to relief schemes.
The first round of the survey covered nearly 5,000 respondents, mostly from informal and vulnerable households. A second round was conducted between October and December, 2020, to gauge the extent of the economic recovery. Of the 5,000 workers interviewed during the lockdown, the organisations managed to reach 2,778 respondents in the second round.
According to the survey, out of every 100 workers, only 26 remained unaffected by the lockdown. Fifty-five managed to recover their lost jobs but 15 had still not recovered from the impact. Five in every 100 workers had lost jobs after the lockdown. The condition of women workers was worse than men in terms of employment recovery. About 57% of men and 53% of women recovered their jobs. Urban areas were said to be much more worse-hit despite the quicker bounce back.
For the most of the workers who were employed post-lockdown, according to the survey, earnings have gone back to pre-lockdown levels. But since a large fraction of the workers continue to remain out of work six months later, on the whole, the earnings of the workers are half of what they used to be prior to the lockdown.
Nine in 10 households reported cutting back on food consumption during the lockdown because of a lack of income and livelihood. Six months later, only one-third of the households reported that consumption was back at pre-lockdown levels. Urban households were worse off, with 28% reporting that food consumption was still at lockdown levels as against 15% of rural households.
It was also found that close to three-fourth of eligible BPL households did not receive free ration in the month preceding the survey and that 30% of eligible Jan Dhan account-holders did not receive cash transfers. Two-thirds of the urban casual workers surveyed said they would like to work under an urban employment scheme on the lines of MGNREGA.
The initial report of the second round of the survey said that in summary – six months after the lockdown – the economy is yet to recover entirely from the damage caused by the pandemic.
“Our 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. Further, given the weakness in food and earnings recovery, there is an 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 survey said.