New data on India’s migrant workers and Covid-19

As South Asia struggles with the second wave of coronavirus infections which has hit India and Nepal particularly hard, new lockdowns across the region have been put into place, once again impacting the livelihoods of millions of people. Yale researchers at the Economic Growth Center (EGC) and the MacMillan Center, along with collaborating researchers, have conducted large-scale surveys of migrant workers in India. The findings can inform the policy response to the current outbreak.

The new research documents how the lockdown in 2020 negatively impacted the lives and livelihoods of poor migrant workers, causing massive unemployment, mass re-migration, and poverty. The researchers followed a group of roughly 5,000 migrants who returned to their home villages in central and northern India after the first lockdown in March 2020 and tracked their economic recovery categorized by those who returned to the cities and others who stayed back in their villages.

There are important takeaways from this study, especially as the region is in the midst of its second lockdown. Designed to mitigate the negative impacts of the first lockdown, the second lockdown involves more targeted and less restrictive localized provisions along with better support programs for the most vulnerable population. As the public policy focus shifts to health care and policy provisions, the study highlights the economic needs of the working poor. To avoid another economic human catastrophe, it recommends providing workers with basic economic support through their employers and public works programs and essential food support through the public distribution support programs.


To read more about this research, visit the EGC website