Family members of a migrant labourer on foot walking from Delhi to their native place spotted on Delhi-Kolkata NH 2, during the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, in Dhanbad. (Chandan Paul/Hindustan Times)
Family members of a migrant labourer on foot walking from Delhi to their native place spotted on Delhi-Kolkata NH 2, during the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, in Dhanbad. (Chandan Paul/Hindustan Times)

The poorest have been worst hit by pandemic

  • Azim Premji University carried out a lockdown survey in April and May of 4,942 workers. Six months later (September-November), we revisited the same workers and managed to interview 2,778 of them.
By Paaritosh Nath, S Nelson Mandela, Aishwarya Gawali, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 09, 2021 05:39 PM IST

The first part of this series presented a macro picture of India’s labour market situation until December 2020 to argue that even though a recovery is underway, significant challenges remain – one reason there needs to be a larger fiscal support in the forthcoming budget. While doing this, it is important that the condition of the poorest sections of the population, who live on the margins even in normal times, is given special attention. For this, nationally representative surveys such as the Consumer Pyramids Household Survey (CPHS) by CMIE can be usefully supplemented by targeted surveys of poor and vulnerable households.

With this in mind, Azim Premji University carried out a lockdown survey in April and May of 4,942 workers. Six months later (September-November), we revisited the same workers and managed to interview 2,778 of them. Telephone interviews were conducted across 12 states with the help of six partner civil society organisations.

Our sample is very different in composition from that of CPHS, with a greater representation of informal workers, lower caste workers, women workers, and low-income households (see table). Even though findings from this survey cannot be generalised to the entire population, they present a snapshot of Covid-19’s impact on those at the margins.

1. Extent of employment recovery


The survey provides information for the same individuals in February, just prior to the lockdown, in April-May during the lockdown, and in September-November, six months later. Workers are considered employed if they reported working even a single day in a month. Even with such a low bar, 69% of those employed in February had lost work during the lockdown. Even six months later, 19% were still out of work. That is, they did not find even one day of work in the month preceding the survey. If we apply a more stringent criterion of employment, of at least 15 days of work in a month, we find that, for every 100 workers employed in February, 35 were out of work post-lockdown. Given that these individuals come from poor households, such continued high levels of unemployment are of great concern.

Of the workers interviewed over this period, 26% remained employed throughout, 55% managed to recover from job losses suffered during the lockdown while 15% registered no recovery at all (i.e. could not find even one day of work in a month). A further 5% had lost employment after the lockdown.

Women fared worse than men with a smaller share registering employment recovery in the post lockdown period (53% versus 57%). Employment recovery was found to be more robust in urban areas than in rural areas. But a relatively higher share of urban respondents had not yet recovered from employment loss – a clear indication that urban areas have been much worse hit despite a quicker bounce back.

2. Increasing precarity, loss of earnings, and food insecurity





While it is useful to know whether people have started finding work, to get a fuller picture of recovery, we also need to know the type of work as well as their earnings with respect to pre-lockdown levels.

Since a large fraction of our sample was still out of work six months after the lockdown, on the whole, earnings were half of what they used to be. The situation was worse in urban areas, overall earnings being only 40% of pre-lockdown levels. But the good news is that if we look at only those workers who were working post-lockdown (i.e. leaving out the unemployed), their earnings have recovered to pre-lockdown levels.

Some better off workers (with regular salaries) had to resort to more precarious and poorly paid types of employment; 60% of those employed as regular salaried workers before the lockdown shifted to self-employment and casual forms of work in the post lockdown period. For such workers, post-lockdown earnings were only 75% of pre-lockdown earnings.

The level of food insecurity is clear from the fact that 90% of respondents reported a reduction in food intake during the lockdown. Of these, in the second round, 30% reported that their food intake had returned to pre-lockdown levels. A further 40% noted that there was partial recovery. Urban households once again were worse off with 28% reporting that food consumption was still at lockdown levels as against 15% of rural households.

3. Reach of relief measures and support


Public distribution system (PDS), Jan Dhan cash transfers and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) constitute the core support elements for informal sector households during the pandemic. The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana provided 10kg of rice or wheat per person (5kg in addition to the usual quota, free of cost) to below poverty line and Antyoddaya Anna Yojana scheme beneficiaries until November. BPL families, which constitute close to two-thirds of our entire sample, on an average received 29kg of grain in October and November, though given their household size, the monthly entitlement should have been around 44kg. We found that 99% of BPL households (who constitute close to two-thirds of our entire sample) had received some ration via PDS in the past month. But 13% of these households had received less than 5kgs of wheat/rice per person while 45% received the exact NFSA quota of 5kg of grains per household member. The remaining 41% of BPL households got more than 5kg of grains per person i.e. they had received some free ration under the PMGKAY. But, not all of them got the full quota announced under PMGKAY. 13% got more than 5kg per person but less than the entitled 10 kg per person.

Coming to direct cash support, the survey found that 70% of Jan Dhan account holding families received transfers. However, the Jan Dhan transfers of .500 per month for three months were not adequate given the fact that even respondents whose households did receive the transfer, had post-lockdown incomes that were lower on average by .1,200 per month, not to mention lost earnings in the intervening period.

MGNREGS has been a significant safety net for rural workers and returning migrants during the pandemic. The MGNREGS national database shows that as of November, number of person days generated under the scheme was 43% more than the previous year (See chart). However, our results suggest that there continues to be a huge unmet demand for MGNREGS work.

Since April, only 55% of those who demanded work under the programme were able to get it. 98% of those who got work said they would like to work for more days if work was available. At the national level, the MGNREGS database indicates an unmet demand of 13%. To be sure, official figures of unmet demand under MGNREGS have been questioned in the past. The survey also asked urban respondents if they would consider working in an urban employment guarantee scheme. 51% (going up to 67% among casual workers) answered in the affirmative.

Budget must give a fiscal stimulus without rolling back MGNREGS and PDS hikes during the pandemic





The findings from the CPHS-CMIE survey reported in the first part underlined the need for an overall fiscal stimulus to boost jobs and incomes. The APU survey shows that any such stimulus should not roll back the hikes in MGNREGS and PDS spending announced during the pandemic. If anything, there is a need to increase this. In addition, an urban employment guarantee programme should be considered.

(Paaritosh Nath and S Nelson Mandela are Research Fellows at Azim Premji University. Aishwarya Gawali is a Research Associate at Azim Premji University.)

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Goldman had just entrusted Ismail and Stark with bigger roles. Ismail formally assumed control of the consumer arm -- known as Marcus -- at the beginning of the year.(REUTERS)
Goldman had just entrusted Ismail and Stark with bigger roles. Ismail formally assumed control of the consumer arm -- known as Marcus -- at the beginning of the year.(REUTERS)

Goldman’s consumer chief Ismail Makes shock exit for Walmart

Posted by Prashasti Singh | Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON FEB 28, 2021 08:44 PM IST
David Stark, one of his top lieutenants at Goldman will join him, the people said, asking not to be identified as the moves haven’t been announced.
Close
According to the central bank, a discount of <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>50 per unit is applicable for all those investing in the gold bonds online.(Reuters)
According to the central bank, a discount of 50 per unit is applicable for all those investing in the gold bonds online.(Reuters)

Sovereign gold bond opens for subscription tomorrow. All you need to know

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Mallika Soni
PUBLISHED ON FEB 28, 2021 07:16 PM IST
The tenor of the bond is for a period of 8 years with an exit option after the 5th year to be exercised on the next interest payment dates.
Close
A salesman speaks to customers in a jewelry store in the Gold Souk in the Deira district of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. (Bloomberg)
A salesman speaks to customers in a jewelry store in the Gold Souk in the Deira district of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. (Bloomberg)

After the worst start in 30 years, gold losses sheen this February

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Arpan Rai, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON FEB 28, 2021 04:22 PM IST
Going by the week-wise depletion, in the first week of February, 24-carat gold became cheaper by 1837 and silver lost 2303.
Close
Last year China's direct investment to Australia focused on just 20 projects in three sectors -- real estate, mining and manufacturing -- the fewest in a decade.(AP)
Last year China's direct investment to Australia focused on just 20 projects in three sectors -- real estate, mining and manufacturing -- the fewest in a decade.(AP)

Chinese investment in Australia plunges due to souring relation, Covid-19 impact

AFP
PUBLISHED ON FEB 28, 2021 04:04 PM IST
Data from the Australian National University released Sunday showed direct investment plunged to US$800 million last year, from US$2.05 billion in 2019.
Close
Reserve Bank of India(HT Photo)
Reserve Bank of India(HT Photo)

‘Not an unmixed blessing’: RBI report amid plan for digital currency

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Mallika Soni
PUBLISHED ON FEB 28, 2021 03:23 PM IST
Earlier in the week, RBI governor Shaktikanta Das said that the central bank plans to launch its own digital currency and the work with respect to the same was in progress.
Close
Key benchmark index Sensex dropped by 1,786 points or 3.46 per cent last week amid weak global cues.(Bloomberg)
Key benchmark index Sensex dropped by 1,786 points or 3.46 per cent last week amid weak global cues.(Bloomberg)

Nine of top 10 firms lose nearly 2.2 lakh crore in market valuation

PTI, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON FEB 28, 2021 03:22 PM IST
Reliance Industries (RIL) was the only scrip to post gains in its market valuation among the top 10 valued companies.
Close
Saudi woman walks at the Saudi stock market (Tadawul), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.(File Photo / REUTERS)
Saudi woman walks at the Saudi stock market (Tadawul), in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.(File Photo / REUTERS)

Saudi shares drop as US pins Khashoggi murder on crown prince

Posted by Kunal Gaurav | Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON FEB 28, 2021 02:29 PM IST
  • While President Joe Biden’s administration imposed only modest new sanctions on the kingdom, it’s expected to announce more action on Monday.
Close
Outsourcing coal workers working at a colliery at Jharia in Dhanbad, Jharkhand,( Chandan Paul / Hindustan Times)
Outsourcing coal workers working at a colliery at Jharia in Dhanbad, Jharkhand,( Chandan Paul / Hindustan Times)

India's coal import drops 12 % to 181 million tonnes in January-April period

PTI
PUBLISHED ON FEB 28, 2021 01:35 PM IST
The company had imported 204.55 MT of coal in April-January period of the previous fiscal year, according to provisional data compiled by mjunction services.
Close
Job losses and non-availability of casual work were the key reasons, according to the survey.(Stock image: Getty)
Job losses and non-availability of casual work were the key reasons, according to the survey.(Stock image: Getty)

96% people faced drop in earnings during lockdown: Survey

PTI, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON FEB 28, 2021 10:27 AM IST
Of the total respondents, 52 per cent were from rural areas and the rest from urban limits.
Close
Women walk past the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) near Wall Street in New York. (AFP)
Women walk past the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) near Wall Street in New York. (AFP)

Women make inroads on Wall Street, but many mountains yet to be moved

AFP, New York
PUBLISHED ON FEB 28, 2021 08:37 AM IST
  • Employment figures demonstrate the mountains that still have to be moved to achieve parity between men and women in the financial services sector.
Close
Theatres stand temporarily closed on Shaftesbury Avenue during England's third coronavirus lockdown, in London(AP)
Theatres stand temporarily closed on Shaftesbury Avenue during England's third coronavirus lockdown, in London(AP)

UK govt to set $7 billion program to help struggling firms

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON FEB 28, 2021 06:01 AM IST
The UK is set to create a 5 billion-pound ($7 billion) grant program to help businesses that have been hard hit by the pandemic.
Close
"We have no time to waste. If we act now, decisively, quickly and boldly, we can finally get ahead of this virus," Biden said. (REUTERS)
"We have no time to waste. If we act now, decisively, quickly and boldly, we can finally get ahead of this virus," Biden said. (REUTERS)

US Prez Biden urges quick Senate action on huge stimulus package

Posted by Harshit Sabarwal | AFP
UPDATED ON FEB 27, 2021 11:45 PM IST
The package passed the House just after 2:00 am (0700 GMT) Saturday, in a 219 to 212 vote, with not one Republican vote, and moves next week to the Senate. "I hope it will receive quick action," Biden said in a brief address from the White House.
Close
The Texas court has twice ruled against Apple in the past, demanding it pay hundreds of millions of dollars to VirnetX -- another company specializing in patent litigation.(Reuters file photo)
The Texas court has twice ruled against Apple in the past, demanding it pay hundreds of millions of dollars to VirnetX -- another company specializing in patent litigation.(Reuters file photo)

US SC to look into system that lets corporations like Apple kill patent lawsuits

Bloomberg
UPDATED ON FEB 27, 2021 08:52 PM IST
  • In an argument at the intersection of intellectual property and the separation of powers, the justices on Monday will consider a challenge to a congressionally-created board that critics have dubbed a “death squad” because of its tendency to toss out patents.
Close
Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway(AP)
Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway(AP)

Warren Buffett says 'never bet against America' in annual letter to shareholders

AP
PUBLISHED ON FEB 27, 2021 08:39 PM IST
“In its brief 232 years of existence, however, there has been no incubator for unleashing human potential like America. Despite some severe interruptions, our country’s economic progress has been breathtaking,” Buffett wrote.
Close
Digital payments in India could rise to $135.2 billion in 2023, according to an Assocham-PWC India study in 2019.(Bloomberg)
Digital payments in India could rise to $135.2 billion in 2023, according to an Assocham-PWC India study in 2019.(Bloomberg)

Reliance partners with Google, Facebook for digital payment network bid

Reuters, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON FEB 27, 2021 05:12 PM IST
  • Facebook and Google are already partnered with Reliance and own stakes in Jio Platforms
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP