Indian informal workforce in dire straits

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The informal workforce accounts for about sixty percent of the world’s adult population. They have been hit hard by the Covid-19 induced lockdowns as they, unlike others, are not covered in any financial schemes of the government. In developing nations like India, the problem is even greater given its population density and economic condition. We have witnessed how a large number of migrant workers were left to fend for themselves during the first lockdown call in 2020. Many such workers panicked and even committed suicide fearing death by hunger. The remaining concluded days of journey on foot either in police stations or hospital beds. Nevertheless, after the first unlock announcement, they were hopeful of recovering their losses incurred due to the lockdown. But any hopes of recovery were crushed by the deadlier second wave. In the battle against Covid-19, these workers are gradually losing their war against hunger one by one.

The problem that would persist, even after assuming that the government steps in to help, is the fact that the informal sector is very large – almost infinite. Most of the informal sector firms have low to almost no income, very low productivity and they very rarely contribute to the taxes. The informal workers, mostly being less educated, earn lower wages than their formal counterparts. As such they already struggle for their income and the pandemic has just multiplied their miseries. Having said this, it’s time the government thought over the issue and came up with a plan to incorporate the informal sector in some sort of scheme so that there is some financial security for the informal workers. No doubt, it’s a daunting task to actually implement a government scheme or aid for the informal sector as a large number of people – men and women alike are working in it but have no employee registration or even IDs. Identifying and making sure that a genuine worker gets his share of the benefit, not only seems difficult but is also another topic for discussion.  

Nevertheless, the literacy rates going up across the world and increasing awareness is bringing the percentage of informal sector workers down. Some countries like India also have from time-to-time announced certain relief packages. It is now time for a new design of effective policies to address the issue at hand. And for the same, all the countries have to come together as the informality is directly proportional to the respective country’s socio-economic fabric. This means that a single solution will not be able to address the problem at hand. The informal workforce – the world over today faces a grim situation because of the pandemic. Without social and financial security these workers are having a harrowing time. And if nothing is done to save this sector, then not only will a majority of these workers perish but also a significant number of human resources will disappear. Every nation must work to strategize a way to tap into this informal sector by helping them to survive, grow and develop. For example, the economic boost the informal sector may collectively bring if they are given a proper way forward. For that to happen, securing the informal workforce with some social and financial security is a move in the right direction.

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