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Project Seva

Covid-19 and the Informal Sector: more than just a virus

By June 5, 2022No Comments

The first incidence of a coronavirus patient was reported in India on January 27, 2020. It was basically a raging virus that had infiltrated China at the time. Nobody could have predicted that the virus would cause a global epidemic and radically transform the planet. Countries are being hit by wave after wave, with little to no time to recover from the disease’s effects. In comparison to other previous viral outbreaks, Covid-19 has been and continues to be the most dangerous. This is due to the fact that it is more than just a virus. It is a threat, particularly to India’s informal sector.

Due to the varied character of Indian culture, the informal sector continues to be the most afflicted by the virus. The informal economy is not taxed or regulated by the government in any way. This means they don’t have access to social security or job security, and the lack of government oversight makes it simpler for employers to exploit employees. In terms of economic factors, the execution of a lockdown has resulted in the loss of all income for about 61 percent of workers in Maharashtra (according to the International Labour Organization). “93% of respondents (informal sector companies) agreed that the shutdown hurt them,” according to the report. Due to the lack of any kind of protection for this industry, it is extremely vulnerable during times of uncertainty.

The informal sector is made up of some of society’s most marginalised and disadvantaged groups. Because of their caste, gender, religion, and other characteristics, they are vulnerable to additional exploitation by their employers. Discrimination, prejudice, and unfair biases towards these populations keep them from getting decent jobs, getting an education, and having a vibrant social life. They are compelled to continue in an exploitative loop that will last for decades. It’s only become worse since the launch of Covid-19. Prejudice and hostility toward certain groups make it harder for them to obtain information and education about current events. They have little access to healthcare and immunizations despite being the most susceptible. The virus and its consequences are borne primarily by the informal sector.

This demonstrates how the epidemic has put this section under duress. It also created a digital divide, making it impossible for informal sector groups to book vaccinations via the Internet because they lacked literacy in this area. According to Oxfam’s India Inequality Report, “just 15% of rural families had access to the internet, and smartphone users in rural India accounted for nearly half of those in urban India.” More than 60% of women in 12 states said they had never accessed the internet. Smartphones were used by 25% of SCs and 23% of STs, respectively, whereas 43% of the upper caste had access to one.” As a result, it is clear that Covid-19 has had disastrous consequences for this industry. 

These problems can only be remedied if the government strives to improve their lives by teaching them computer literacy, raising their dignity, and, most importantly, aggressively integrating them into the formal economy.