COVID-19 & Unemployment

COVID-19 and Unemployment – Cause and Effect’ was the subject of a recent webinar organised by AIILSG and Urban Update in association with UCLG-ASPAC. There has been a series of these webinars during the last several months which have seen keen participation from knowledgeable panellists and viewers.
The subject of this latest webinar was indeed very relevant and timely given the challenges being faced by the economy with respect to food security, livelihoods, and economic growth. Panellists argued for intervention by the governments by way of various measures including an urban version of NREGA which could put money in the hands of the common man and revive demand and thereby tax revenues too. There is no doubt that livelihoods have been impacted adversely especially given the fact that an overwhelmingly large size of India’s economy comprises the informal sector – over 90 per cent by some estimates. With their incomes drying up and with no social security net, the situation turned grave for a large part of the population. Since the informal sector is likely to dominate the landscape in the foreseeable future, there is need for some ‘safety net’ for its people. A recent press report states that the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) is considering a recommendation by its working committee to set up a pandemic risk pool to address the pains caused to the informal and low income sectors in case of another similar crisis in the future, This could cover some 4 crore persons.
In addition to the short term disruptive impact of events such as COVID-19, one also needs to factor in long term impacts upon jobs and livelihoods that could be unleashed by forces of technology and other dynamics. The use of technology can be disruptive, and even damaging in some cases – for example the digital imaging and digital music revolutions. However one general principle finds many agreeing upon – that technology, automation and robotics may replace many routine, unskilled jobs; while at the same time creating new opportunities of jobs with different, higher skills. Given that one has very little control over the march of technology, there is need to undertake large scale skilling and re-skilling of our youth.
This is what the government has been emphasizing and we at AIILSG have been working in this area by setting up skill development centres in various locations. Given the COIVD-19 pandemic and its spread across state and national borders, and also that the infection could be around for some time, we see an important role for our Sanitary Inspector’s course and other courses in public health. Our courses in fire-fighting and disaster management among others are growing more relevant and are sought after.
While the economy could soon be on its feet with various macroeconomic level interventions, there is need to build in ‘safety nets’ for vulnerable populations. At the same time, skilling and re-skilling must remain on the radar constantly. These are necessary to ensure gainful livelihood for the millions of our youth.

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