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View: India has its work cut out in terms of jobs

The jobless growth phenomenon in India predates Covid, but the urgency of addressing it has become sharper in the shadow of the pandemic

Source | |  Ashwini Deshpande, ET CONTRIBUTORS

Year 2022 saw the gradual dislodging of the Covid-19 pandemic from the No. 1 public health emergency spot, as the usual suspects (dengue, pollution and so on) regained their prime positions. On the health front, we seem to be heading back to business as usual, which simply means that we are back to battling old enemies, instead of dealing with the horrible new ogre that had engulfed us like a tsunami. But those who survived a severe infection of Covid-19 are battling its shad-ow: Long Covid.

Is the economy, which got badly battered by the pandemic, also dealing with Long Covid? In this piece, I look at the long shadow of Covid on employment levels and women’s work (paid and unpaid). Throughout the pandemic, the Centre for Economic Data and Analysis (CEDA) at Ashoka University has been providing real-time updates on the health of the economy based on the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE) data. Having been hit hard during the initial months of the Covid-19 pandemic, employment lev-els are recovering but have yet to re-tur n to pre-pandemic levels, Compared with January 2020, around 14 million fewer individuals — 4.5 million fewer men and 9.6 mil-lion fewer women — were employed in October 2022.

During the Covid-induced lock-downs, in absolute terms more men lost employment than women, which reflects the pre-pandemic male-female gap in paid employment. However, in proportionate terms, women lost more in the first year of the pandemic. Women’s participation in paid work gradually returned to pre-pandemic levels but with a fair bit of fluctuation.

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