According to a study by SEWA Bharat’s Learning Hub, 82% of domestic workers were not paid wages during the lockdown while 75% of micro entrepreneurs could not pay their employees and 48% of street vendors could not go back to work until September
New Delhi: The extended lockdown and the subsequent changes that have been put in place due to covid-19 have affected the lives and livelihoods of workers in the informal sector. According to a study by SEWA Bharat’s Learning Hub, 82% of domestic workers were not paid wages during the lockdown while 75% of micro entrepreneurs could not pay their employees and 48% of street vendors could not go back to work until September.
India is currently in unlock-5 where further relaxations have been given for the economy to resume functioning. India was under a lockdown for over five weeks since the last week of March to control the spread of the virus. This period saw a large number of migrants, a majority of whom work in the informal sector, move back to their home towns due to rising expenses in the city.
“We started collecting data on the informal economy even before the lockdown had started. We saw what was happening in the global economy, including China and other countries. We realized that whatever happens, livelihoods were going to be affected. We started talking to women in the informal economy," Paromita Sen, research manager at SEWA Bharat, said in the podcast.
According to data collected by SEWA Bharat, only 18% of domestic workers got paid during the lockdown. About half the workers were allowed to come back to work once things opened and one-third lost their jobs because people are now staying more at home and don’t need domestic workers to work anymore. Except for vegetables and produce vendors, 90% of street vendors have had no work.
“We did another report across 12 states to figure out how they were meeting expenditures. Over 70% of the women we spoke to said that they had run out of their savings and were relying on loans or their family. Even people who had access to a bank could not step out to do so. People started giving up on certain expenses. They started giving up vegetables and milk which has longer term repercussions. The impact was quite severe and especially so in the informal economy," she added.
“As a crisis this was unprecedented but enough is never done to protect workers in the informal sector. They fall a little behind the curve. It is not that states are not trying but it is erratic. Workers found a way to manage elsewhere but that was not an option during the lockdown. It is not that there is an absence of a social security net but it is erratic," she said.
Delhi Decoded is a weekly podcast. You can listen to all the episodes here.