The Union government has suspended work on four key surveys on migrants, domestic workers, and jobs created by the transport sector and professionals because of the deadly second wave of the pandemic, possibly delaying a national employment policy based on these surveys.
With lockdowns and curfews being imposed across the country, surveyors will find it difficult to visit families, offices and worksites, two government officials said, adding that the management of the pandemic has become a top priority now, and the surveys will restart once the situation improves.
The nationwide surveys, designed and executed by the labour bureau in consultation with an expert committee, may also be reworked as the explosive surge in infections this year has changed the ground realities since the surveys were conceived.
The delay may, however, have an adverse impact on the proposed national employment policy that the government was mulling. The four labour codes already passed by Parliament, and the national jobs and social economic survey results were expected to be the base of such a policy.
“We have put the four surveys on hold as the surging covid-19 makes it almost impossible to do the household surveys,” said D.P.S. Negi, director-general of the labour bureau. “We are talking to our expert committee on how to incorporate the new realities in these surveys. It’s a difficult situation, and sending our field workers to houses and offices will have a huge implication on their health and well-being. Second, no one will entertain surveyors at their homes during a second wave,” said Negi, who is also the chief labour commissioner (central).
According to the Union labour ministry, the migrants’ survey will be the first such study of “the socioeconomic and working conditions of migrant workers” and shall “also assess the impact of covid-19 on migrant workers”.
The survey of domestic workers expects to capture the socio-economic condition, the job preference and impact of the pandemic on their economic status.
While the transport sector survey was supposed to capture the jobs created by the industry, including by taxi aggregators, the one on professionals was supposed to capture the employment generation and potential of tens of thousands of professionals, including advocates, doctors and chartered accountants.
The surveys were supposed to be released by November. On 31 March, labour minister Santosh Gangwar said that the surveys will “generate highly useful data for effective policymaking in the field of labour and employment”.
The study of the labour market, including gig workers, will help the government formulate a comprehensive employment policy for both formal and informal segments and design social security and welfare measures. Besides, there has been a growing demand for a national policy on employment to formalize the large informal sector, implement social security for unorganized workers, and formulate welfare schemes for low-income households.
Negi said the labour bureau is hopeful of restarting the process in a couple of months once the situation improves, allowing them to resume fieldwork. The surveys are crucial as they could provide a holistic picture of the employment market and the socioeconomic condition of migrants and other informal workers, who have drawn global attention following the massive reverse migration and job losses they faced after the national lockdown of 2020.
The first wave of the covid-19 pandemic pushed an estimated 230 million Indians to poverty, according to a survey by Azim Premji University. The survey suggested authorities focus on rural jobs and direct cash transfer to the poor. The second wave has, however, further strained the labour market. According to the Centre for Monitoring India Economy, at least 7.35 million jobs were lost in April, including some 2.84 million salaried jobs in rural India.
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