City of dreams no more, a year on: Worklessness and active labour market policies in urban India

Policy brief COVID-19

  • Ten months on from the lockdown months of April to June 2020 in India, we conducted a new field survey in lower-income states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh during February and March 2021.
  • The new survey expanded coverage of the target group through a boost sample of individuals who have lost work due to the pandemic.
  • Forty percent of recontacted workers had no work or pay. Younger individuals, in the bottom half of pre-COVID earnings, experienced higher levels of worklessness.
  • The new survey finds urban individuals have been unemployed for the last six months on average. The share of employed individuals who had a full year’s work has halved since the previous year.
  • The survey elicited views of urban individuals on policies that would help alleviate their livelihood crisis. A large majority, 85%, prefer an urban job guarantee to other policy options, such as cash transfers or hiring incentives, to reduce worklessness and livelihood insecurity in their areas.
  • Government work programmes, such as state insurance and provident funds, are barely reaching low-income urban areas. Less than 1% of the respondents had access to these government benefits.