Lockdown hit more workers from lower castes, reveals study by university in HaryanaUpdated: Aug 04, 2020 01:02 IST
The lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 has affected employment prospects of workers from lower castes more unfavourably than those from upper castes, according to a study by Ashoka University, Haryana.
Released on Friday, the paper, titled “Is COVID-19 ‘The Great Leveller’? The Critical Role of Social Identity in Lockdown- induced Job Losses”, analyses the drop in employment for workers from communities ranked low in the caste hierarchy – scheduled castes (SC), scheduled tribes (ST), and other backward castes (OBC). The study uses data of skilled and unskilled labour from across India, gathered by the independent think tank, Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy. The researchers found that compared to workers from upper castes, the probability of job loss was three times higher for those who are SC and two times higher for OBC workers.
“We have tried to understand the effect of the pandemic on the employment situation of lower caste workers in relation to upper caste workers. We have compared employment data over December 2018 and April 2020,” said Ashwini Deshpande, professor of Economics at Ashoka University, who co-authored the study with Rajesh Ramachandran from the department of microeconomics and management at Goethe University in Germany.
The proportion of employed persons in all caste groups remained fairly stable from August 2018 to December 2019. However, between December 2019 and April 2020, there was a steep fall in employment of all caste groups, indicating that the lockdown had affected employment of workers across all castes, but in varying degrees.
In December 2019, 39% of upper caste workers were employed and by April 2020, the percentage had dropped to 32%. The fall was more pronounced for SC workers, 44% of whom were employed in December 2019, but only 24% were employed in April 2020. For OBCs and STs the fall was from 40% to 26% and 48% to 33%, respectively.
Ajit Ranade, Mumbai-based economist and political analyst, who was not a part of the study, said the findings were important as they show the impact of the pandemic through the lens of caste.
“Researchers find that there is a difference between upper caste and lower caste, especially the scheduled caste, in terms of the severity of the negative impact on employment. The upper castes are endowed with higher human capital, i.e. educational achievement, and are in jobs less vulnerable to pandemic disruption. What is surprising is that the impact on scheduled caste is three times worse. Not only has the pandemic exposed the pre-existing inequities but has amplified them. Hence relief and welfare measures have to pay extra attention and compensate for this unequal impact across caste divisions,” said Ranade.
The study also found education emerged as a key element in job security. The researchers mapped the share of individuals with 12 or more years of completed schooling and the proportion holding daily wage or casual jobs (jobs contracted on a daily basis). “The share of individuals with more than 12 years of schooling is 37% for upper castes and 17% for SCs. It shows that stigmatised caste groups are also disproportionately more likely to hold daily wage jobs, which provide no job security or tenure,” said the paper.
While only 3% of daily wage earners are from upper castes, 16% are from SCs. The researchers also found that stigmatised groups with lower levels of education were further impacted by differences in the type of employment contracts they were given.
“However, while caste differences are minimised among the better-off workers [those with more than 12 years of schooling and those without daily wage jobs], they are not completely eliminated,” said Deshpande.