Informal sector workers in Bengaluru, whose lives were disrupted by the pandemic and subsequent lockdown, are yet to recover their losses and their livelihood is yet to return to pre-COVID-19 levels. A study by Azim Premji University, which was released on Thursday, found that 15% of informal sector workers continue to be unemployed after losing their jobs. In addition, 23% had experienced a break in employment during the pandemic, and nearly half of the people surveyed (46%) are currently engaged in the same job but with less pay.
Around 75% of those surveyed were engaged in jobs similar to what they did before the pandemic, but most with lower pay or break in employment.
Researchers surveyed around 250 people in the informal labour sector. They mostly comprise self-employed people like street vendors, waste pickers, autorickshaw drivers, mechanics, dhobis and small business owners, or those working on wages rather than fixed salaries, such as domestic workers, sex workers and construction labourers. The study also looked at vulnerable groups such as garment workers, security staff and retail shop workers. Their current income is in the range of ₹6,000 to ₹12,500 compared to the monthly income of ₹6,000 to ₹20,000 before the lockdown, the study noted.
Women and the elderly, the most vulnerable and disadvantaged under the informal category, the study found, had experienced difficulty in sustaining existing livelihoods as well as finding jobs. “Informal sector workers, lacking the safety net offered by formal sector employment, have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Prolonged livelihood loss and a slow revival of trade have continued to stress the lives and livelihoods of these vulnerable groups,” the study observed.
Managing essential household expenses, mortgage, access to health care, and diminished employment opportunities are some of the major challenges faced by such families in Bengaluru.