The outbreak of COVID-19 and the consequent lockdowns worldwide have crippled socio-economic activities for many, particularly the poor. Daily wagers and the labor class are amongst those hardest hit in terms of the economy due to the virus. Migrant workers, along with their families have left for their native towns and villages from urban areas. With social distancing being the new norm, their return to cities bears a question mark. Extended curfews may have had the potential to contain the spread of the virus, however, for developing countries, they have left daily wagers, construction workers, and landless laborers in rural areas distraught.
To begin with, the aforementioned do not have any additional benefits such as savings, insurance, employment provident fund, etc. from employers. Hence, they can barely make ends meet. Decent working conditions, social security, and any form of representation in unions are nearly non-existent. With no formal work arrangements, many have been rendered as laid off. The steep rise in unemployment has resulted in the reduction of affordability and accessibility to necessities, including food items.
Amongst the labor class, women and children are most adversely affected as they are more likely to suffer from lack of food and malnutrition. Given the diversion of resources towards health-related concerns, the weaker sub-groups have been ignored. If we look at the figures, worldwide, 45 per cent of the workforce is formed of such vulnerable groups. For developed countries, it stands at 73 per cent, whereas for South Asian countries it is at around 70 per cent.
Stunted growth, malnutrition, anemia, wasting, and being underweight are problems extremely common to women and children in South Asia and the Sub-Saharan region.
Moreover, the economies of countries in these regions depend more on informal workers, rather than anything else. Therefore there is a dire need for proper precautionary measures and policy options to face the consequences of the repercussions of COVID-19 outbreak. It is crucial to quantify the socio-economic loss in terms of their employment, income, diets, nutritional deficiencies and health. This will subsequently enable appropriate policy measures that will, in turn, show significant progress in achieving SDGs.