"Labor is the foundation of civilization and the keystone of social
progress." - Rutherford B. Hayes
Humans may have won a battle, but the bigger war is yet to be fought, the vaccine for covid-19 is here, and the end of the pandemic is visible. But it was not long before, when every day was a normal day until the pandemic started, and people started to die, governments around the world started to impose lockdowns and everything came to a standstill, years of people's saving vanished in few months, it was a horror for poor people around the world.
In addition to the devastating public health crisis, the pandemic has also caused significant disruptions to the country's economy and labor market. The nationwide lockdowns and social distancing measures imposed to contain the spread of the virus led to widespread job losses, particularly in the informal sector hence worsening on state of labour in India.
This article seeks to analyze and understand the lingering aftermath of covid-19 on state of labour in India, the nationwide lockdowns did led to widespread job losses, but now that the pandemic has ended and lockdowns have been removed, business have reopened, things are going to normal again like it was once, but we have a question in front of us, what now, is the situation improving or is the situation going to get us as a aftermath of covid-19.
There are many negative consequences of covid-19 on state of labour in India, of the several changes that started with the pandemic, one of the significant consequences of pandemic is the increased inflation, because of the lockdown imposed by government during pandemic, many people lost their job and had no source of income, which forced them to use whatever savings they had to survive. But the real problem is starting after the pandemic, as the economies around the world reopens, inflation has surged to record high levels, while income has remained same, consequently labors in India are finding it hard to make ends meet.
Furthermore, to this concerning and disheartening aftermath of the pandemic is the dilution of labour laws that protect them. To give a boost to the economy many states in India have diluted the labour laws, it is as if employers have been given a free hand to exploit poor labours. States such as Madhya Pradesh has diluted the labour law allowing the industry units to be operated without many of the requirements of the factories act 1948, such as working hours may extend to 12 hours a day, instead of eight, and weekly duty up to of labour can be extended to maximum of 72 hours, a lot higher than world average of 40.
All labour regulations in Uttar Pradesh have been suspended for three years, except for a few laws that deal with, the elimination of child labour and bonded labour, hiring women, paying wages to construction workers, and compensating workers injured while on the job, some states have reduced social security benefits, but all of them are walking on the same path in an effort to increase economic activity.
Another change that started with the pandemic is that automation and digitization have also significantly increased because of the pandemic. Many firms are looking to automation and digital solutions as a way to minimize costs. As firms see the advantages of higher productivity and lower labour costs, this trend is likely to persist. The issues associated with automation and digitization are not new, but the pandemic has further accentuated it.
Automation may displace workers, and those who keep their jobs may need to learn new skills to adjust to a more automated workplace. Further it is not clear as to what rights will be available to workers working remotely, for instance health and safety will no longer be concern of the employer, if an employee is harassed online, in that case can sexual harassment at workplace act apply, these are questions that have risen because of the new scheme.
Further, because of the lockdown, a large number of people lost their jobs, the negative consequence of this is an unbalance in demand and supply of labour, a large number of people are unemployed and seeking job to work which is why the supply of labour is huge, but because of less demand of labour in market, labours are ready to work even with lesser wages, which is a violation of their right to life, enshrined under article 21 of the constitution, and right to minimum wages under Minimum wages act 1948, but desperate times requires desperate measures, so to make ends meet many labours are working even below minimum wages, a unfortunate aftermath of covid-19.
Moreover, a significant change can be seen in the mode of work, a new mode of work that is remote work, during pandemic, many firms started to offer work from home scheme, which continued for a long time, consequently employees became habitual of it, and now firms around the world are offering work from home even after pandemic owning to benefits such as reduced operating costs, businesses can save 50% to 70% on operational expenses for infrastructure and personnel by allowing employees to work from home. For instance, there won't be any transportation expenses, real estate prices will be reduced, but as a negative consequence salary and social security benefits will also be lower too.
Another negative consequence is that the migration patterns that have historically defined the Indian employment market have changed as a result of the pandemic. Many migrant workers were forced to return to their home states due to the outbreak; it is unknown if they would work at their previous positions once more or hunt for employment closer to home. Manufacturing and construction industries are two that rely heavily on foreign labour and might be seriously harmed by this.
Additionally, the epidemic has had a severe detrimental impact on India's employment market. Especially in particular for those working in the informal sector, the majority of labours in India fall under the category of "informal workers," and they usually engage in low-paying, precarious employment with scant social protection or access to healthcare and adding fuel to fire, the long-term effects of job losses and income reductions will likely be significant, particularly for individuals who were already struggling to make ends meet. Since the economic recovery is anticipated to be delayed and uneven, many informal workers may find it difficult to reclaim their livelihoods in the post-pandemic future.
We have won the battle, as was said before, but a bigger war still needs to be fought. On the Indian employment market and the state of the workforce, COVID-19 has had a variety of negative repercussions. The outbreak caused widespread job losses, particularly in the unorganized sector, which increased inflation. Due to the deterioration of labour laws safeguarding employees, employers are increasingly free to exploit disadvantaged workers. In order to reduce costs, businesses now offer remote employment, while automation and digitization have grown. The epidemic has caused a significant change in the travel habits of migratory workers, who are now returning to their home states, which has an effect on the manufacturing and construction industries.
The pandemic has severely affected informal workers, and it may be challenging for them to regain their livelihoods. Interventions in policy are urgently needed to safeguard workers' rights and provide their financial security. The government must safeguard the interests of the working class by assisting them financially, supporting them with social security payments, and raising the minimum wage to combat inflation in order to address the lingering effects of COVID-19.
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