Livelihoods devastated as result of slowdown: Azim Premji University survey

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New Delhi, May 12 (IANS) Two-thirds of workers in India have lost employment during the Covid-19 pandemic with the self-employed in the urban areas being the worst-hit, according to a survey by Azim Premji University.
The messages to remember, the survey says, are that livelihoods are devastated as a result of the slowdown, lockdown has resulted in households becoming extremely vulnerable and food-insecure and relief measures are grossly inadequate in reducing the pain.
The Azim Premji University conducted the Covid-19 Livelihoods Survey and these are early findings from phone surveys. The survey started in mid-April with 3,970 households surveyed till date and 5,200 households to be surveyed in all. The survey is being done in collaboration with civil society organisations across the country.
Two-thirds have lost employment with 57 per cent in rural areas and 80 per cent in urban areas, with the overall number at 67 per cent.
The self-employed in urban areas are the worst-hit with 84 per cent losing employment in urban areas, compared to 81 per cent for casual wage workers and 76 per cent for the regular salaried.
The survey finds that the weekly earnings of casual wage workers have been halved from Rs 938 in the pre-lockdown period to Rs 482 in the lockdown leading to a drop in earnings of Rs 456 a week.
In addition, the weekly earnings of non-agricultural, self-employed have vanished. At Rs 2,385 in the pre-lockdown period, they are left with only Rs 218, a massive drop of Rs 2,167 a week.
The survey found that half of salaried workers were not paid or saw reduction in salaries with 35 per cent getting no salaries, 16 per cent getting reduced salaries while 2 per cent had salaries withheld.
Half of the farmers were unable to harvest or sell their produce while only 12 per cent could harvest and sell at regular or higher prices.
On the impact on households, the survey found that 8 in 10 are unable to pay rent and 37 per cent reported having to take loans to cover the expenses during the lockdown. Informal networks are the major source of loans including friends, family and money lenders dominating.
The survey found that two-thirds of urban households have less than a week’s worth of money for essentials. The situation is much better in rural areas where 33 per cent have money for essentials of a month or more and this number in urban areas is only one per cent.
The survey also extended to relief measures and their reach and efficacy including availability of food rations during the lockdown, reach and impact of relief schemes announced by the government, cash transfers to intended beneficiaries and benefits accruing to vulnerable households.
The finding was that that public distribution system (PDS) worked in reaching households during the lockdown, however the Jan Dhan impact was restricted due to low spread.
The other forms of cash transfers have hardly reached the beneficiaries in rural and urban areas. Only half in rural and one-third of poor households in urban received any cash transfers. Only one-fourth of 688 landed farmers received transfers through the PM-Kisan scheme
On improving the immediate relief measures, the survey pitches for univeralising PDS and ensure expanded rations for six months, increase cash transfers to Rs 7,000 for at least next two months and expand the reach, urgent need to focus programmes for the urban poor and open up MGNREGA sites as soon as the lockdown lifts.

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