Covid-19: Why casual workers and the self-employed are most likely to lose their work and incomes

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on July 16, 2020 Published on July 16, 2020

Number of workers vulnerable to the lockdown in India could reach 364 million or more: ILO report

Thousands of casual workers and self-employed in cities like Mumbai and Pune have left for their native places in the last few months after the Covid-19 outbreak. Those who are still in cities fear cuts in working hours, lay-offs, furloughs and reductions in incomes. But this is not the case just with Maharashtra.

The International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) states that the number of workers vulnerable to the lockdown in India could reach 364 million or more, including those in casual work, self-employment and unprotected regular jobs (lacking social protection coverage).

Employment crisis

ILO’s document on the rapid assessment of the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on employment released last month states that even before the Covid-19 crisis, India had been experiencing slower economic growth and rising unemployment — problems that were dramatically worsened by the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown. The documents add that those most likely to lose their work and incomes are casual workers and self-employed. Around three-quarters of employment in India is non-regular — either self-employed or casual workers.


“Using 2020 population figures (which generate an estimate of 473 million workers), around 118 million workers in India are casually employed, representing around 25 per cent of the total Indian workforce, while slightly more than half or 246 million are self-employed. Women are marginally more likely than men to be in non-regular employment,” the ILO reported.

Unprotected workers

Unprotected regular workers, who account for around 14 per cent of employment or 65 million, are likely to suffer as industries restructure and contract in the face of the crisis.

SP Gadkari, who worked in a private firm in Pune, recently lost his job as the company decided to sack employees because of the financial crisis. “ I want to do something on my own. But creating space for self-employment is not easy now. There are many like me who are now struggling for work opportunity,” he said.

Unprotected workers suffer the consequence — both of immediate restrictions in movement and the ensuing economic downturn. “The total also is likely to rise if those in regular employment lose their jobs due to industry closures. Young people are particularly vulnerable; during a crisis, they are often the first to lose their jobs and face intense competition for fewer jobs in the labour market,” the ILO report added.

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Published on July 16, 2020
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