Job security and COVID-19

It is not the returnees alone who are facing job loss but thousands of employees in the private sector are either experiencing lay-offs or pay-cuts.

 

Once again, we would like to talk about setting up a Job Commission or Employment Opportunities Commission in the state to rethink a new strategy for increasing employment opportunities in view of the massive job loss and layoffs right here in the state caused by the COVID-19 outbreak and consequent lockdowns in various forms. It is not the returnees alone who are facing job loss but thousands of employees in the private sector here are either experiencing lay-offs or pay-cuts.

According to a survey by the Indian Society of Labour Economics (ISLE), job loss is the most severe immediate impact of COVID-19 crisis while lower economic growth and rise in inequality would be the long-term effects. The online survey was conducted on 520 ISLE members in the last week of May. The preliminary results showed that loss of employment was considered as the most severe immediate impact of the crisis while lower economic growth and rise in inequality were probable long-term impact. As per the survey, the immediate policy priorities suggested were protection of workers and families, short-term employment creation and income transfers to affected workers.

Short-term policy requirements were support to MSMEs, expansion of MGNREGA, job creation, cash transfers and social security while the long-term measures included need for building a stronger public health system, universalisation of social security and policies for welfare and rights of migrants.

These are sensible recommendations, indeed. But, there is an urgent need to properly analyse these recommendations in state specific situations, so as to chart our own strategy. While doing so, we must also take into consideration that the pandemic Covid 19 may be with us for a long time to come. Whatever data is available of the state returnees it indicates that besides the students, the returnees were earlier employed in different sectors such as restaurants and hotels, private companies, retail, health care, salon and parlours, BPOs, airlines, private banks, among others. Think of it, the returnee numbers is more than 50 thousand as of now. Add to this, thousands of people in the private and unorganised sector of the state who had to face lay-offs due to COVID-19. Some of them might be living off whatever scarce savings they have had. But, many of them would surely be facing mind boggling situations including psychological problems which may lead to depression.

Their continued unemployment and lack of employment opportunities in the near future would certainly develop into a major problem for the state, unless we begin charting our responses in time.

We had earlier talked about replicating the Uttar Pradesh model. But, it should be limited to the conceptual level only, as the situation in Uttar Pradesh is very different from Manipur. The UP Commission was the first of its kind being set up in the country and directed towards the welfare of the migrants and state workers and labourers. We have come to know that, our richest resource is human, educated and skilled. Only a few states in the country have such a resource base. Our skilled youths had gone beyond the state as the state was very much lacking in job opportunities. Now, it has become the state’s responsibility to create opportunities here. Bureaucrats alone would not be enough to rethink such a strategy. We need to involve experts and adopt a multi-disciplinary approach. So it is high time, the state institutes a Job Commission or Employment Opportunities Commission, whatever you call it. We all have seen, what problems entail job crisis and massive unemployment scenarios in the society in general. So, let us not wait for the situation to explode.

The government must start learning to pre-empt possible scenarios to chart strategies. Besides, we should also explore the possibilities of introducing unemployment allowances or social security benefits, as an immediate measure to ward off discontent among the jobless population.

 

First Published:Aug. 11, 2020, 1:02 a.m.