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Lockdown: 40 crore workers may face stark poverty


NEW DELHI: The stringent lockdown enforced by the Centre is likely to push 40 crore workers of the informal sector deeper into poverty in India, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said in its latest report released on Wednesday. 

“In India, Nigeria, and Brazil, the number of workers in the informal economy affected by the lockdown and other containment measures is substantial. In India, with a share of almost 90 percent of people working in the informal economy, about 400 million workers are at risk of falling deeper into poverty during the crisis,” the ILO said in the report, titled ‘COVID-19 and the world of work’.

The ILO also noted how lockdowns and related business disruptions have had sudden and drastic impacts on workers and enterprises. “ILO estimates show that workplace closures have increased so rapidly in recent weeks that 81 percent of the global workforce lives in countries with mandatory or recommended closures,” the ILO report stated. 

It also classifies the measures taken by the government to arrest the pandemic as ‘stringent’. The classification was done based on an index, called the COVID-10 Government Response Stringency Index, created by the University of Oxford. The report says that the stringent measures have impacted the informal sector significantly and forced many workers to return to rural areas across the country.

The response stringency index also shows how India has forced more measures on its workforce than countries like Brazil, Pakistan, and even China, which was the epicenter of the virus. According to official estimates around 5 lakh workers were forced to walk home after the government announced a 21-day complete lockdown on March 24 suspending rail, road and other forms of travel. 

According to the ILO, India accounts for 20 percent of all the informal workers globally. On Tuesday, the CMIE had released a report which pegged the unemployment rate for March 2020 to be the highest in 43 years for India.