COVID-19 Second Wave: Importance of Social Protection for Informal Sector and Migrant Workers


COVID-19 pandemic and the second wave are more unprecedented. It is once again a major public health crisis and vulnerabilities are multifold this time due to the new strain of the virus. This is along with the repeated and massive impacts on informal and migrant workers.

The Prime Minister’s nationwide address indicated that lockdown to be the last resort, however, the current situation is way too deplorable to managed by the administration at various levels.

Nationwide lockdown during the first wave had already the deepest impact on India’s informal sector workers and migrants. Last year during this time we have seen thousands of migrants walking miles to return to their homes hurled out of their workplaces and the cities, which is once again the current scenario.

Migrants who faced severe plights are a significant part of India’s informal and unorganized sector who are adversely impacted during the pandemic.

As per the Ministry of Labour and Employment, a total of 1.23 crore migrant workers returned to their home States during the Covid–19 lockdown during the first wave. There are 5.2 percent informal workers in the organized sector which indicates both the level of outsourcing of production as well as the growing use of contractual labour (Murthy, 20191).

Taking this into account, the proportion of informal workers in the total participating labour force reaches around 93 percent (Economic Survey 2018-19) which is about 450 million workers.

Informal workers still have very limited protective measures specifically targeted towards them, despite having the legal framework to do so. In the backdrop of the current crisis, where the livelihood of the informal workers has been hit the hardest, it is pertinent, now more than ever, to initiate conversations on rolling out protective social security measures for the informal workers. Moreover, ensuring easy access to good quality public health and education is the need of the hour.

About the panelists

  1. Umi Daniel: Director, Migration and Education, Aide at Action International – South Asia
  2. Prof. Babu Mathew: National Law School of India University
  3. Prof. Ravi Srivastava: Professor Ravi Srivastava is currently Director, Centre for Employment Studies, Institute for Human Development, Delhi.
  4. Dithhi Bhattacharya: Centre for Worker’s Management

Moderator: Udit Misra, Deputy Associate Editor, The Indian Express