CityMakers Say Job Loss is a Temporary Phase: Survey Findings
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CityMakers Say Job Loss is a Temporary Phase: Survey Findings

By IMPRI New Delhi Media Team

CityMakers Say Job Loss is a Temporary Phase: Survey Findings

Findings of a telephonic-survey conducted by interviewing 3,121 households across 50 plus cities of the country from May 7 to May 17, 2020, were shared by the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi. Results of the survey were discussed at an International Webinar on May 27, 2020, conducted by IMPRI in association with the University of Florida, USA. Over 1500 people including research scholars from reputed institutions participated in the Web Policy Talk event from across India and the USA, UK, China, Germany, Egypt, Algeria, Indonesia, Mexico, Canada, Bangladesh, and other countries.

The study reported that eight out of ten casual daily wage laborers and six out of ten salaried workers were unemployed or lost their jobs due to closure of business/construction activities. The study reported that six out of ten respondents were unaware that congestion was a major constraint in ensuring social distancing and hygiene and safety practices could prevent the transmission of the virus. More than 50% of the respondents were worried about losing work and were anxious and apprehensive about how they would feed their families. The study revealed that six out of ten respondents demanded free ration after the lockdown ends; while eight out of ten respondents suggested that they would resume work after the lockdown ends. Most respondents stated that the coverage of different government schemes was far from being universal and that lack of awareness and eligibility were two major impediments.

The study suggested key policy takeaways and stressed on the need for collecting and analyzing local periodic data for pandemic preparedness and response. A new urban agenda focusing on dynamic urban planning processes and empowering the city governments along with urban job assurance program is a need of the hour as a longer-term policy option to address the looming economic crisis.

Speaking on the occasion, Prof. Wendy Olsen (University of Manchester, UK) articulated that extremely localized solutions are needed for catering to the needs of the CityMakers who comprise over 140 million workers. According to her, the need for free ration, advance wages, and assured food supply for each were essential to alleviate the sufferings of the people. Insisting on “a true political will”, she stressed on health insurance, basic amenities, and coordination between local governments, adding, urban local bodies should be strengthened with requisite funds and local capacity.

Sandeep Chachra (Executive Director, ActionAid India) expressed that while providing immediate solutions the long outstanding call of informal workers, decent wages and workers’ rights should not be diluted, especially because these rights were gained following years of labor struggles. He asserted, labor laws cannot go to abeyance, neither should one undermine social security and protection.

Prof Ruth Steiner (University of Florida, USA) noted, “A large section of the Indian population is usually ignored from the policy challenges when a nation is a shutdown. How do we take note of the way they meet their basic amenities? We need to understand the importance of public transport to access goods and services and draw lessons for the future”. 

Dr. Arjun Kumar, Director, IMPRI, said, “Government programs like the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana are being harnessed to provide intermittent relief to the poor. However, per person allocation of monetary support is very low, and for schemes like 'Thalinomics’ (for ensuring a balanced diet) to succeed, assured assistance of around Rs 2,000 per month per person is needed. Essentially, the assistance of a $ a day and an android phone for using the AarogyaSetu app to all the poor citizens should be ensured to fight this pandemic with nutrition, well-being, and technology. It is expected from the government to act as the guardian and ensure that welfare schemes become accessible for all.”

Prof Balwant Singh Mehta, Research Director, IMPRI and Dr. Simi Mehta, CEO & Editorial Director, IMPRI, the study coordinators, stated, “The study findings show that urban informal workers were mainly engaged in low paid casual daily wage work and self-employment activities such as street vendors, and only a few were involved in salaried jobs. Therefore, the lockdown has had a huge impact on their livelihood as six out of ten workers have lost their livelihood.”

However, they noted, “The most interesting part is- over three-fourths of them reported that they will resume the work once the lockdown is lifted. They argued that in case of any such adversities in the future, adequate measures need to be kept handy.” They emphatically argued that “Relief measures must be provided on a war footing keeping in mind the prevailing realities and understanding how stressful the situation becomes for all, especially the lives and livelihood of the CityMakers.”

Assistant coordinators and senior researchers Anshula Mehta and Ritika Gupta (IMPRI) remarked that the study reflects “unprecedented sufferings, anxieties, and perceptions of the CityMakers during COVID-19 and lockdown in a candid manner. They revealed ground-level stories and realities often not captured in any other survey. The study presents ample scope for taking corrective measures through evidence-based governance in both the short and the long term.”

Other major participants in the webinar included well-known scholars like Prof Chris Silver and Dr. Abhinav Alakshendra, University of Florida, USA, and Dr. Soumyadip Chattopadhay, Senior Fellow, IMPRI and Associate Professor Viswa Bharati University, Shanti Niketan.

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