NEW DELHI :
The Centre is set to conduct a national exercise to find out the economic impact of covid-19 on formal and informal sector migrant workers, and across industry segments, to capture the remittance pain different regions are facing. The household survey, likely to be carried out by the labour bureau, the data and survey wing of the Union labour ministry, will also capture remittance risks to the rural economy till the pandemic is contained, said two government officials, seeking anonymity.

“The massive displacement of people from urban areas to rural hinterlands has upset the economic activities both in the formal and informal sectors. It is important to capture the ground realities for future course of action,” said the first official. “The reverse migration and absorption of people in the agriculture sector has provided a cushion, but remittance loss for rural India is a real issue and may have a long-term impact on the health and well-being of a large segment of the population,” said the second official.

In India, remittances are projected to fall about 23% in 2020 to $64 billion, against the 5.5% growth in 2019, according to an April World Bank report. It added that remittances were a “vital source of income” for developing countries. India received $83 billion in remittances in 2019.

While global remittances are a talking point, domestic remittances, too, are a big factor. “The migrants who left their villages for urban centres largely send a sizable portion of their income back home. That must have got severely impacted in last few months, harming their families’ well-being. It’s important to capture that,” the first official said.

The official added that the survey is being designed to also capture the psycho-social impact on different categories of migrants, including in formal and informal sectors. The outcome could be used for designing social security measures, future readiness to deal with mass displacements, and fixing rural demand and supply constraints, besides fixing non-farm sectors outside urban locations.

“The pandemic has given an odd opportunity to the government to fix the issues bottom-up. The rural economy needs to shift from a pure agriculture and single-owner employment economy to a structured non-farm economy. The growth of industry clusters, the focus on non-farm income and a well-oiled supply chain is missing in rural India. For that, the central and state governments must take a good stock of ground realities and design policies, including a robust social security mechanism,” said Arup Mitra, a professor of economics, Institute of Economic Growth, New Delhi.

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