ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Livelihood Vulnerability, Policy Response and Coping Strategies during COVID-19

A Study of Informal Workers in Kerala

This article examines the livelihood vulnerability experienced by the informal workers in Kerala in terms of employment and income shortfalls during the first three months of the COVID-19 crisis. A discussion on the policy response of the state is also attempted to understand its role in reducing the levels of livelihood vulnerability. Kerala’s policy intervention is a road map for other states to contain the pandemic and its consequences.

Even though the COVID-19 pande­mic had begun as a health crisis, it later spawned lockdowns in almost all countries of the world, causing a ­severe economic crisis with serious consequences for the more vulnerable sections of society. The workplace closure measures caused an unprecedented dec­line in economic activities and disruptions in the labour market, which in turn resulted in massive employment and income losses. India experienced drastic contractions in gross domestic product (GDP) growth during the first half of 2020–21 and consequently became one of the worst-hit economies in the world. It is now evident that the pandemic has created a very disparate impact on various sections of society. The brunt of the pandemic in terms of employment and income loss was expected to be more on informal workers, who are widely recognised as the most vulnerable group because of job insecurity, lower wages or earnings, and lack of social security and paid leave facilities. Informal workers were expected to be more at risk of losing their jobs and incomes during the pandemic (FAO 2020).

A large proportion of the less educ­ated and unskilled workforce in rural and urban areas depends upon the informal economy for their livelihood. Data from the Periodic Labour Force Survey 2017–18 published by the National Statistical Office (NSO) showed that the inf­ormal sector employed nearly 80% of total workers and 87% of rural workers. Further, among the total workforce emp­loyed in both the formal and informal sectors, almost 90% were informal workers. The workforce in the informal sector has no legal protections in the form of minimum wages or any kind of employment and social security. As a result, informal workers were reeling under a severe livelihood crisis during the pandemic. Taking self-employed and casual workers together, the number of people adversely affected by the lockdown in India was in the range of 364 million to 429 million (ILO 2020a).

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Updated On : 13th Aug, 2023
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