A Webinar on ‘Impact of the COVID Lockdown on the Informal Economy’ was conducted by the Indian Society of Labour Economics, in collaboration with the Institute of Human Development, Delhi, where I was the main speaker.
The Indian government announced a Rupees 11 lakh crore (11 trillion) stimulus package for the economy. The announcement was made in 5 tranches. Much has been said and written about the impact of the COVID19 lockdown on the Indian economy and details of the stimulus packages announced by the government. There is also a lot of commentary in the media on the sad plight of the migrant workers who are desperately trying to reach their home states since all economic activity has been shut down. I shall focus on the certain segments of the invisible, faceless and voiceless people in the informal economy.
In the world as a whole the informal economy consists of 2 billion workers, constituting 62 percent of all workers. By levels of income informal employment constitutes about 90 percent of workers in low-income countries, 67 percent in middle income and only 18 percent in high income countries. They have all been hit, in varied degrees, by the shock of the COVID19 crisis and the lockdown that followed.
There were an estimated 457 million workers in India in 2017-18. If we assume there 90 percent of them were informal workers, that means there were 411 million informal workers in India. These workers engage in different industrial sectors such agriculture, manufacturing, construction, trade and services. They are also faced with different degrees of informality in terms of working conditions, wages, and social protection. As this is a very large and heterogeneous group it does not make much sense to talk about the informal economy as a whole. So I focus on particular segments of the informal economy and informal workers, in particular, micro enterprises, construction workers, street vendors and domestic workers.
After a brief account of the size of different segments of the informal economy, I discuss the dimension of the problem that these selected segments face, the relief measures that have been announced for them and how it may or may not help them to re figure their livelihoods after the lockdown is lifted. Please watch the video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUAaFYaqO44
The Webinar begins with the introduction of the speaker and moderator. The main talk by Jeemol Unni is from 11.20 minutes on the video recording to 1.05 hours, a total of 48 minutes.