“Employment up after unlock, but informal workers still face low wage and low consumption” – Results of Round II of the National Survey on Informal Workers
Date : 7-November-2020
New Delhi, November 7 | Around 48% workers say they are still unemployed in the unlock phase. Results of the second round of the National Study on Informal Workers being conducted by ActionAid Association show marked improvement from the first round of the survey conducted during the lockdown period, when 78% of the sample interviewed reported having lost their livelihoods. However, amongst workers who have resumed employment, close to 42% said that they were partially employed, that is they are either getting work occasionally or working fewer hours. This is also borne out by the intensity of work reported in the unlock phase, which has gone up compared to the lockdown phase, but is nowhere near the pre-lockdown situation.
The second round of survey for the longitudinal study has covered more than 16,900 informal workers in over 400 districts in 23 states across the country. The survey was carried out from 23rd August 2020 to 8th September 2020 during Unlock 3.0, the third phase of the government’s phase-wise reopening of the lockdown.
Respondents were asked about a range of issues regarding their livelihoods and wages, savings, consumption and expenditure, and access to welfare schemes. Nearly a third of the respondents were from urban areas while 72% were from rural areas, and 63% of the sample identified themselves as male, 37% as female, and 17 respondents as transgender. The study seeks to create a deeper understanding of how the ongoing crisis is impacting the lives of workers in the informal sector.
As employment has still not reached pre-lockdown levels, monthly wages received by workers also remain extremely low. Almost 24% of respondents reported to have zero wages in the unlock phase and close to 50% said that their monthly wages were less than Rs 5,000. Additionally, over 64% of the respondents said that they had not received the wages which were due to them at the time of the lockdown.
Given the low levels of employment and wages, the stress on consumption and savings is clearly visible. Overall, 68% of respondents said that their level of food consumption was not sufficient for them. Close to 88% workers said that their savings were not sufficient for them. This includes 93% of respondents in urban areas and 86% of respondents in rural areas. Moreover, around 39% of workers reported that they have had to borrow to support themselves in the unlock phase. This includes 47% of workers in urban areas and 36% of workers in rural areas. Respondents who migrated for work before the lockdown seem unwilling to resume migration, with nearly 57% of such workers saying that they want to continue staying in their source districts. The major reasons include fear of catching Covid-19 in the destination district, lack of job opportunities, and uncertainty about the time it would take for situation to be ‘normalised’ at destination.
These preliminary findings highlight the urgency required in supporting informal workers regain and rebuild their livelihoods and in protecting them from sliding into further indebtedness and poverty. These findings will be further bolstered by a detailed report as well as state level data in the coming weeks to strengthen the evidence base for both policies and grounded interventions.
On the occasion of the release of the National Factsheet of the Round II of the National Study on Informal Workers, Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director, ActionAid Association said: “ActionAid Association has undertaken this longitudinal survey to track the condition of informal workers across the country, to understand how they can be supported strongly to cope with the COVID-19 situation and enhanced vulnerabilities. There is urgent need to provide succour to all people dependent on the informal economy, link support to the MSME sector with payroll support to safeguard jobs and worker protection, and expand the Garib Kalyan Rozgar Abhiyan to improve rural and urban livelihood opportunities across the whole country.”
ActionAid Association is an organisation working for social and ecological justice. ActionAid has been engaged with the most marginalised communities in India since 1972. In 2006, ActionAid Association was registered as an Indian organisation, governed by an independent General Assembly and a Governing Board. Together with supporters, communities, institutions and governments, we strive for equality, fraternity and liberty for all. ActionAid Association works in 24 states and two union territories, with several partners and allied organisations.
ActionAid Association is part of a global federation and a full affiliate of ActionAid International, that has presence in over 40 countries worldwide.
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