The Indian labour force is growing more and more exposed. There are two key causes for this vulnerability, in my opinion. Both are somewhat related to one another. But I’d prefer to deal with it separately for greater understanding. Economics and climate change are the two justifications.
Recent research has revealed that India’s household position has been declining for years, even before the pandemic. Over the past few decades, consumption growth has exceeded income growth. This is a direct outcome of less saving and more debt.
Although regular wage earners and the salaried class are superior to independent contractors and temporary employees, sadly, only approximately 23 percent of the whole workforce—437 million people—fits this description. The remainder are either self-employed (around 50 percent) or temp workers (27 percent). Even according to the World Bank, more than 75 percent of the workforce in India works in “vulnerable” jobs. For the majority of modern economic theories, this ratio is under ten.
The effects of climate change are another danger. Although everyone on the planet is impacted by climate change. But because they have superior public health, social security, and infrastructure, developed nations are currently able to handle it and its effects more effectively. The effects on developing and underdeveloped nations are disastrous and tragic. Rain or excessive heat disrupts many things. However, the impact on the Vulnerable Workforce is much greater. The effect on health and income, however, is significant. The worker frequently became sick, as did his family. This results in absences from work or school. Children miss school, and employees lose their daily wages. Because of inadequate infrastructure, the likelihood of accidents also rises significantly, which results in lost pay owing to poor.
These climatic fluctuations, which include extreme rain and heat, have an impact on the quantity and quality of the food grains produced. Numerous studies have been conducted, with the results showing that not only is the per-hectare production declining but that the quality of several crops, especially rice and wheat, is also declining. In addition to the poor losing their meals as a result of the shortage in grain supply, prices are also skyrocketing. However, income does not keep pace with actual inflation. The long-term health of the vulnerably employed labour is impacted by this inadequate and unhealthy diet.
Another significant effect of this rural economy is that it avoids the migrant workforce from being vulnerable in the event of issues in metropolitan centres.
To solve these difficulties, we require a comprehensive and all-encompassing approach. Additionally, they must also be informed about the many government programmes that are accessible.
The functions of the government, civil society, and labour unions have grown significantly since yesterday.
(The writer is Former Head, Corporate Communications &CEO, PPL, Social Research and Communications.)