“Job loss, wage loss and severe food insecurity” report majority of workers in Bihar – ActionAid India
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“Job loss, wage loss and severe food insecurity” report majority of workers in Bihar

Date : 28-May-2020

New Delhi, 28 May | Findings of “Workers in the Time of COVID-19” a report on evidence from a rapid assessment in Bihar.

Around 82 per cent out of 177 workers responding to a survey in Bihar, said that they lost their jobs and returned to their home districts.  More than 60 per cent of them returned home without receiving any wages from their last employer in their destination cities.  The average wage loss per worker was around Rs.  6,400 per month.  66 per cent of the workers who responded to a question on their perception of food sufficiency stated that it had steeply dropped from 72 per cent to 8 per cent.   As compared to pre-lockdown, 71 per cent of respondents used to have access to sufficient water, but that too has declined to 38 per cent during the lockdown.  The return journey was excruciating for almost all returnee migrant workers.  They reported being stranded in destination cities on an average of 18 days before they could journey back to their home districts.  Their loss of jobs is accompanied with a surge in indebtedness in the lockdown period.  The intensity of indebtedness has been exacerbated for two-thirds (68 per cent) of the respondents.  At the same time, access to relief measures and government schemes during the lockdown has been a serious challenge and has been further aggravated by procedural hurdles.  89 per cent of intended beneficiaries reported not being to avail the benefits of government schemes due to a lack of linking of documents and bank accounts with Aadhar.

These are findings of “Workers in the Time of COVID-19” a report on evidence from a rapid assessment in Bihar. This is a pilot study on livelihoods, indebtedness, on being stranded, the inability to access food and essentials and the experience of securing relief and government entitlements.

Saurabh Kumar, Regional Manager, ActionAid Association, Bihar & Jharkhand says, “The pilot survey of workers in Bihar will help us share insights with the Government of Bihar and local administration about how best they can help workers cope with the crisis. The memorandums of agreement being drafted by the Government of Bihar with employer states is a welcome step to protecting rights of migrant labour working away from home.”

With the aim of understanding the plight of informal workers, especially migrant workers and the specific hardships they are facing and will be facing as they are on the long path home and once they reach their native places, ActionAid Association is undertaking a detailed assessment of various disruptions and hardships that workers have faced and will face across 18 States of India.  In all more than 10,000 workers will be covered in a longitudinal study over a period of the next six months.  The objective of this exercise is to track the impact of the crisis caused by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent containment measures including the lockdowns, on the lives of millions of workers, their jobs, incomes and access to essentials of life.

The data generated will help informed policy making. ActionAid Association will seek to draw lessons from this data to outline implications from what we have learnt from workers on creating a more responsive policy framework.

These efforts are informed by the understanding that crises, like the COVID-19 pandemic, only foreground the fissures that already exist in society.  It exposes the multi-layered vulnerabilities and deprivation which remain concealed in more generalized accounts of the growth and achievements of an avowedly developmental state such as our country.   We need to ensure that our collective objectives of building a welfare state that seeks to create well-being for all its people are not lost sight of in these times of unprecedented crisis.

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About ActionAid Association                     

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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