The COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed the livelihood and employment of millions of people across the world. As per the International Labour Organization (ILO) report, nearly 400 million full-time jobs were lost in the current year’s second quarter (April-June 2020) due to COVID-19. This has aggravated the unemployment situation especially in developing regions such as South Asia, where 110 million of the total 235 million full-time jobs were lost in the same period of time. It is estimated that job losses increased by over 400 percent in South Asia and Africa each since the first quarter of 2020.
There are various reports and surveys estimating huge job losses in the informal sector and the temporary nature of work in services and industrial sectors, particularly in South Asian countries. However, these reports also highlighted some silver lines of the present crisis in the form of an increase in agriculture and gig economy jobs, which are least affected and also showing future job potential. The job losses during lockdown were huge in the informal sector or those engaged in casual labor/temporary work. However, the survey findings also highlighted that once the lockdown would be over most of them would get back to their casual and informal work.
This is also true in the case of India, whereas per the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) report around 6.8 million daily wage earners lost their jobs during April 2020, and around 14.9 million people took to farming during this period. But about 18.9 million salaried people who have lost their jobs during the same period may not get back to employment in the near future as salaried jobs are more difficult to retrieve. These ballooning numbers of job losses particularly full-time salaried are really worrying for the policymakers and other stakeholders in India and other South Asian countries today.
With the above background, the Center for Work and Welfare (CWW) at IMPRI, along with Counterview, has launched a discussion series called #EmploymentDebate to engage with experts on employment issues.
The experts would share their insights on the challenges and way forward in achieving quality employment for each segment of society. The series would explore the role of governance, corporations, civil society, the populace, and other actors in realizing an equitable society. The program will be conducted bilingual, in a mix of English as well as the Hindi language.
Prof Balwant Singh Mehta
Balwant Singh Mehta is presently working as Research Director at Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI) and is a Fellow at the Institute for Human Development, Delhi. He has written five books and contributed over four dozen articles in reputed national and international journals on employment, inequality, poverty, child well-being, and information and communication technology on development/human development related issues.