Co-Written by Dr. Rabiya Yaseen Bazaz & Professor Mohammad Akram

Skill Education photo

The International Labor Organization (ILO) in its report ‘ILO Monitor 2nd edition: COVID-19 and the World of Work’, describes COVID-19 as ‘worst global crisis since World War II’. ILO estimated that globally more than 25 million jobs would be threatened due to the spread of corona virus. ILO says that COVID-19 can have a devastating impact on the middle and lower income countries where majority of workforce are engaged in low paid and low skilled informal sector. In India, Centre for Monitoring India Economy (CMIE) estimates that due to COVID-19 unemployment rate increased to 27.11% and the rate can further escalate by the end of 2020.  It is believed that recovery from COVID-19 largely depends upon the approach and policies adopted by the government. In this regard, PM Narendra Modi, in his national address says that goal of the country is to become self-reliant and urged people to go “vocal about local” by developing local manufacturing and business. He further says that COVID-19 time has made us realise the importance of local traders that helped the country to sustain during the corona virus lockdown.

After 1990s India witnessed an impressive GDP growth rate. However, it is argued that the growth which India witnessed since 1990s is not inclusive. After globalisation process initiated in 1990s, India began to experience large employment deficits where most of the employment created is informal and of poor quality with low productivity. Consequently, inequalities have increased and vulnerabilities have grown. Today 92% of the total workforce of India is working in informal sector and large majority of them have low earning with a limited or no social protection. According to India Labour and Employment Report (2014) the employment structure reveals that in 1992-94, the proportion of regular wage/salaried employment is 13.2% which increase to 14.3% in 2004-05 and 17.3% in 2011-12. Thus employment structure of India reveals that after liberalisation the share of formal sector has increased very marginally. According to National Sample Survey Office (NSSO, 2011-12) the proportion of self employment is 52.2% and the proportion of casual labour is 29.9%. Thus most prominent feature of the Indian employment situation is that a large number of workers are either self-employed or casual labourers.

Recently IMF says that India’s GDP growth rate slipped to 5 per cent in the first quarter of 2019-20, the lowest in over six years. COVID-19 has hit India’s economy at a very vulnerable time; India is already in a manufacturing recession and is dwindling with low growth rate and high unemployment rate. COVID-19 crises directly have impacted the income and employment of the worker working in unorganised and informal sectors. CMIE says because of COVID-19 those employed in informal sectors received a massive blow especially daily wage, who are hawkers, roadside vendors, workers employed in the construction industry and many who make their living by pushing handcarts to rickshaws, and those employed by small businesses took a massive blow. Besides it is also impacting employee of many private sectors.

According to CMIE the total India’s unemployment rate of India is 8.19% (as of August, 2019) which is the highest in over 50 years. The rate of unemployment for men and women was 6.1% and 17.5%. CMIE report says that India’s unemployment rate increase to 27.11% amid COVID-19 crises. It further says that rate of unemployment is highest in urban areas (29.22%) as against rural area (26.22%).

Thus in the field of employment and labour, the recent labour market trends indicate a poor performance in generating productive employment with decent work conditions. The employment situation led us to the conclusion that India’s economic policies focus more on trade and commercialisation and scanty attention has been given to inclusive and sustainable economic growth. In the process of globalisation, we invited job losses growth and economic inequalities. In order to protect country from ongoing economic crises government need to up with both short term and long term programmes. Besides providing immediate relief to those who received massive blow due to COVID-19 crises, India needs to create better paid formal sector. This requires moving workers out of tiny farms and low paying enterprises into more skilled, productive and better paying jobs. For that government needs to build formal skill base and confident among its people so that they can be trained to become self-employed and can harness local sectors.

World Bank says (2007) says that one of the important cause of unemployment and underemployment in India is that fact that small proportion of people in India has any formal skill training.  The poor skill levels among India’s workforce are attributed to dearth of formal skill and vocational education among people. Presently, there is not only dearth of skills but also lack of confident among youth to make and build things and to become self-reliant.

Our Education system is developing such mindset among youth where they visualize formal education only as a means of acquiring qualifications and subsequently ‘good job’ (government job) and when they fail to get it they end up doing menial occupation in some unorganised sector. The role of education largely remains confined to regular wage employment when over the year this sector has experienced marginal growth. Majority of our workforce are self employed and our education system least prepares youth for self employment.  Formal education system is hardly visualised as means of becoming entrepreneur and very less have been talked about how education can modernise our self-employment sector. At present content and curriculum of education needs reformation.

The world is currently in the midst of one of the biggest crises faced due to COVID-19. ILO says that for protecting economic from the crises government has to come up proper approach and appropriate policies. COVID-19 has deeply impacted the Indian economy and in order to turn the tide and create positive impact Prime Minister promotes self-reliance thorough the vocal for local campaign. However, for this campaign we need to inculcate skill and entrepreneurial training and need to bring ideological changes where youth should choose self-employment as their career choice. It is the high time that we should decolonise our educational system where the role of education should not remain confined to salaried employment. Education should link individuals with the world of work. At an individual level education should enhance individual choices and capabilities and at societal level it should bring constructive and inclusive change.

Dr Rabiya Yaseen Bazaz has recently completed her Ph.D. in Sociology at the Department of Sociology, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India.  She has worked on areas like sociology of education, employment and work, inequality and stratification, labour market, social policies and development. She has published many research articles in Scopus and peer-reviewed journals. She has presented papers in many national and international conferences and is a member of the Indian Sociological Society (ISS). Email: aahiyabazaz@gmail.com,

Prof. Mohammad Akram is Professor of Sociology at Department of Sociology, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India. He has five published books and several research papers to his credit. He has worked on areas of sociology of health, migration, work, education and social policies. He is engaged in the profession of teaching, research and supervision for more than twenty years. He is an elected member of the Managing Committee of Indian Sociological Society (ISS). Email: akram_soc@yahoo.co.in,


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