Lockdown Survey: How The Covid-19 Crisis Has Affected Daily Wage Workers

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In continuation with findings from the telephonic survey conducted among 4403 parents (Covid-19 Lockdown: In Uncertain Times, Data Matters), AIF’s evaluation team provides a snapshot, within this group, of 2239 parents who were daily wage workers, a demographic group that is particularly vulnerable to economic and health shocks. The earnings and incomes of these families have implications not just on their own welfare but also far away – through remittances to their relatives in rural areas that are the source sites for migration.

Here are some findings of their knowledge, concerns, and opinions about the lockdown.

  1. Profile of Respondents: A typical family of a daily wage worker had a husband, wife, about 3 children (under 18 years) and one senior member. 4 in every 10 mothers and 2 in every 10 fathers had never been to school. Around 45% of both had completed up to 8th grade or lower. With school closures and sore reliance on parents for home-schooling, this demographic group of daily wage workers is at the highest risk of not being able to give their children the support they would need with home schooling.

Profile of Respondents

  1. Awareness and Attitudes: Almost all of respondents (99%) were aware of the government- imposed lockdown. Around 77% of them were worried about the impacts of the coronavirus on their families. Most of them were aware of preventive measure such as staying indoors and wearing masks, but around half of the respondents showed awareness of social distancing. This could be reflective of the fact that daily wage workers live in small single-room homes and social distancing for them may not be possible.

Awareness and Attitudes

Preventive Measures

  1. Economic Concerns: Only 7% of respondents from this group reported receiving pay during the lockdown, a massive shock to livelihoods and wage earnings. Around 6 in 10 respondents received help from the government, mostly in the form of dry ration. As high as 3/4th of them expressed concern about their employment post lowdown (75%). This concern was most reported from Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan (87-89%).

Economic Concerns

  1. Access to Devices and Internet: When asked about access to the internet, around 58% confirmed they had internet access. With respect to availability of devices at their homes, it emerged that 79% had television, 70% had smart phones while 57% had feature phones and around 14% had radio.

Access to Devices

  1. Continuing Education Amid School Closures: The top three preferred ways of continuing education for their children amidst school closures
  • 84% favored using the cellphone for learning
  • 66% felt comfortable with joining WhatsApp groups with teachers and other children
  • 65% opined that lessons should be televised for children

  1. Preferred Duration of Device Use per Day: We also asked about the duration for which they can allow their child to use device for education. On an average, parents could spare these for the child’s education for about 2 hours per day, highlighting a need for shorter duration lessons.

Preferred Duration

The emerging picture underlines the need for a strong push in public spending and transfers, both in cash as well as in-kind, to address this humanitarian crisis. While income loss may seem to be temporary, the majority does not appear to have received any pay and it is not clear how social distancing norms will continue to affect their ability to earn in the future.

Similarly, on the education front, we are seeing an equity issue. Only half the respondents confirmed they have access to the internet at home. While delivery of lessons is mostly preferred through the phone, these families are likely to have just one phone between them, thus indicating challenges for those that have two or more school-going children who may need to share the device. Additionally, if the phone belongs to the wage-earner, once s/he resumes work, it is likely that the phone will be used by the parent and not be available for the child’s education during work hours. The need of the hour is for education programs to include the most vulnerable children and target their access to devices and connectivity.

Findings of the overall study conducted during the lockdown (between April 28- May 08, 2020) can be accessed here.

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