India's economy had officially entered recession, as released data on Monday showed a collapse of 23.9 per cent of gross domestic product in the second quarter.
This was largely due to the Indian economy was weighed being down by the coronavirus pandemic and the severest of lockdowns that led to halt in business activities and a sharp fall in consumer demand.
The National Statistical Office (NSO) said GDP contraction in the April-June period of FY21 was the largest slump on record since India started reporting quarterly data in 1996.
India’s nationwide lockdown was imposed on March 25 and continued till the end of May, after which restrictions were gradually lifted from June. While April and May are considered washouts for most businesses, pent-up demand boosted consumption somewhat in June, though well below pre-Covid levels.
A report conducted by London School of Economic researchers, Shania Bhalotia, Swati Dhingra and Fjolla Kondirolli, measured how India's jobs and earnings were impacted in the similar period (May-June.)
The report, titled "City of Dreams no More: The Impact of Covid-19 on Urban Workers in India," surveyed 8,500 workers aged 18 to 40 in urban India to understand their experiences at work during Covid-19.
It found that on an average, earnings fell by 48% in April and May, compared to pre-Covid months of January and February. Financial assistance from the government or employers was available to less than a quarter of the workforce.
15.5% of the workers surveyed lost their jobs and, 21.7% worked zero hours during the survey months. 70% percent of urban workers have no guarantee of a minimum number of days of work in the year. Of them, 70% would like to have a guarantee of 100 days of work, primarily to overcome the livelihood insecurity from Covid-19.
The survey also found that only 27% actually have written employment contract while a little over half have access to some benefits (provident funds, sick pay, health insurance) through the government or their employer.
It also found that Gen Z (those aged between 18 to 25 years) suffered the most. The authors of the study state that Gen Z was "more likely to be employed informally and more likely to be
paid less. The pandemic has left the 'lockdown generation' with lower employment rates and a legacy of entrenched inequality."
Ironically, the study also found that Gen Z was much more likely to want a job guarantee, primarily for the livelihood security that they provide in these hard times.
India is struggling with one of the world’s largest virus caseloads and the effects of a lockdown so abrupt and punishing that Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the poor to forgive him.
The study adds the repercussions of this: Trying to make generate jobs. "Inadequate job protections and the severe economic downturn from the pandemic have renewed the debate over a job guarantee in urban areas of India."
It adds how several states in India are introducing urban jobs programmes, particularly for young workers, to prevent the crisis from further developing into long-term unemployment.
The study notes that "This is a step in the right direction because even more recent data reveals that easing the lockdown has not fully reversed the patterns of rising unemployment and reduced earnings."