“Workers in the Time of COVID-19” a report released on survey of 11,537 informal workers across India – ActionAid India
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“Workers in the Time of COVID-19” a report released on survey of 11,537 informal workers across India

Date : 15-Aug-2020

“More than 75% of workers lost livelihoods since lockdown” findings of a national survey of informal workers.

“Food consumption was hit during the lockdown” findings of a survey of more than 11,500 informal workers across India.   

Out of 11,537 respondents, over three-fourths reported that they had lost their livelihood since the imposition of the lockdown. Close to half of the respondents said that they had not received any income, and about 17 per cent had received only partial wages. Approximately 53 per cent said that they had incurred additional debt during the lockdown. More than half of the respondents, who were migrants, reported that they were stranded for over a month. People’s access to essential services also took a big hit. Only about a sixth of the respondents said that their food consumption was ‘sufficient’, a substantial decline from before the lockdown when 83 per cent of them believed that their food consumption was sufficient. There was a notable drop in the frequency of food consumption. When asked about the number of meals they were having in a day, 93 per cent of respondents said that they were eating two meals a day before the lockdown. Still, only 63 per cent of respondents reported eating two meals in a day after the lockdown. Nearly three-fourths of the respondents said that they could not access healthcare when they needed to during the lockdown.

These figures are from a national study on informal workers conducted by ActionAid Association across 20 states and one union territory during the third phase of the lockdown. This is the first report in a series from the multi-round longitudinal study, conducted by ActionAid Association. The pre-existing vulnerabilities of the respondents, almost 60 per cent of whom are migrant workers, are brought to light here. It also deals with the impact on livelihoods, wages, and on access to relief and entitlements. The report focuses on housing, indebtedness, access to food, water and healthcare, which have wide-ranging and long-term implications for workers’ health and well-being.

The report documents the changes caused by the pandemic and the ongoing crisis in the lives and livelihoods of informal workers. It provides an insight into the precarity they experience and the coping mechanisms they adopt. In the following months, through multiple rounds of surveys with the same sample of workers, the study will track changes in their incomes, employment, patterns of migration, asset ownership, access to food, water and essential services, indebtedness and savings, living and working conditions, labour relations, and access to entitlements and social security.

The study seeks to create a deeper understanding of how the ongoing crisis is impacting the lives of workers, and their capacity to respond effectively. The report should help us formulate a strategy to support informal workers in accessing relief, rebuilding their lives and livelihoods, and asserting their rights. ActionAid Association aims to use the learnings from the study, to sharpen our grounded interventions with informal workers and provide direction to our engagement with policymakers. The report should also generate evidence which has utility for researchers, policymakers, labour unions and formations, and civil society in the present context and beyond.

Speaking on the occasion of the release Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director, ActionAid Association said, “The pandemic has revealed the limits of our society and economy’s systems and processes. The spread of COVID-19 has shown us the limits of our imaginations. We have seen that governments are struggling to respond effectively to the massive shock the system has had to bear. The socioeconomic gains of the past few decades, such as in reducing absolute poverty and food insecurity have suffered massive setbacks. At the same time, fissures based on caste, religion, gender are getting broader and more profound. This is a crucial moment, both for policymakers and civil society as a whole, to critically reflect upon what will make our communities resilient. We must imbibe lessons about the choices we need to make, the tools we should deploy and the institutions and mechanisms we must build and strengthen.  Systemic change of the kind that is required for progress is only possible once structural fault lines are acknowledged and understood.”

To access the report please click here:



Contact for queries or more information

Joseph Mathai: +91 9810188022, mathai.joseph@actionaid.org