Declining Wages, No Government Aid: Daily Wage Workers Are Stuck in a Deep Crisis -Deepanshu Mohan, Jignesh Mistry, Advaita Singh, Snehal Sreedhar, Sunanda Mishra, Shivani Agarwal, Vanshika Mittal and Ada Nagar
A survey of mazdoor mandis in Surat, Lucknow and Pune shows that even many months after the lockdown ended, workers are struggling to make ends meet.
“Since the time of COVID-19 lockdown, there has been a severe crisis of employment opportunities in local labour markets. Getting work for even two days a week is difficult for us. Daily wages too, for any work possible, have dipped by half,” says Rajesh Singh, a young daily wage worker in his early 20s from a ‘mazdoor mandi’ (an unorganised labour market) in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.
The tragic tale of Rajesh Singh, struggling to make ends meet to afford two nutritious meals for his family, and the dwindling prospects for work is experienced by many daily wage workers standing beside him, all of whom travel from peripheral towns and villages near Rai Bareilly and Sultanpur to Lucknow in search for daily work. This reflects the nature and form of the economic catastrophe that has surfaced since the curfew-style lockdown sucked out employment opportunities for daily workers across unorganised and organised segments.
The trials and tribulations of this community – dependent on daily work and wages for survival – worsened since the lockdown, with only fleeting moments of respite. Even since August 2020, when ‘unlocking’ allowed for some activity to resume for an economic recovery to begin, the daily wage shramiks have continued to suffer acute economic distress due to limited job prospects, travel restrictions and poor execution of government support policies.
In a three-month extensive field study undertaken by our research team at Centre for New Economics Studies, O.P. Jindal Global University, we documented and archived narratives of over 200 daily wage workers – through a randomised survey across the mazdoor mandis of Lucknow (UP), Surat (Gujarat), and Pune (Maharashtra), aimed to understand the extent to which the current economic crisis is affecting the workers’ daily work prospects; has adversely impacted their incomes; and how little to no state support has forced many to borrow extensively through informal channels for making their ends meet, leaving most highly indebted, especially in Lucknow.
The reason for selecting Lucknow, Surat and Pune for this particular field study was based on the logistical ease, and given how each of these cities – in their own respective region – attract the maximum amount of intra-state and inter-state migrant workers and rely on them for most industrial, manufacturing and construction work.
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TheWire.in, 28 February, 2021, https://thewire.in/labour/daily-wage-workers-lockdown-covid-19-wages-government-aid-deep-crisis
Tagged with: Coronavirus Covid-19 Daily Wage Workers Daily Wages Employment Income Insecurity Income Losses Job Losses Labour Chowks Labour Mandis Livelihood Security Wage Depression Inter-State Migrant Workers Inter-State Migrants Migration