Announcing a Symposium on Implications of COVID-19 for Labour and Employment in India: Impact, Strategies and Perspectives

Guest Editor: Dev Nathan, Institute for Human Development, Delhi

The Indian Society of Labour Economics (ISLE) along with the Institute for Human Development (IHD) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), India Office, organized a two-day Virtual Conference on June 8 and 9, 2020. Many renowned experts, from India and other countries, participated in this Virtual Conference. The presentations and some additional short notes have been collected in this Symposium to be published in the Indian Journal of Labour Economics (IJLE). Though the Virtual Conference was held within a couple of months of the spread of the pandemic, the resultant lockdowns and the recession in the Indian and global economies, the presentations, some of which the authors have updated and modified for this Special Issue of the IJLE, have many valuable insights and analyses that will be of help in understanding the impact of COVID-19 on labour and employment. The contributors  put forward policy prescriptions and, as India and the world struggle to come out of recession, even helped define a research agenda for the future of work. The notes in this Symposium contain many suggestions that will help us in recreating the economy – not just going back to the old structures but to be able to rebuild a less unequal, more gender-equal and resilient economies, moving in the direction of decent work. 

The topics dealt with in the Symposium are diverse and cover key aspects of national and international experiences in the impacts of COVID-19 on labour and employment, with a focus on the Indian economy. The macro impact on the economy (Sudipto Mundle), plight of migrant labour (Ravi Srivastava), the role and varieties of social protection (K.P. Kannan; S. Mahendra Dev; J. Krishnamurty), employment conditions (Ajit Ghose; Dagmar Walter) and unemployment (Mahesh Vyas); trends in labour regulation (Kamala Shankaran) , the differential impact on women (Ashwini Deshpande), on workers in the unorganized sector (Jeemol Unni), agriculture (Sudha Narayanan) and industry (K. Nagaraj and Vikash Vaibhav); and trade unions (Shyam Sunder) are all discussed in the context of India. 

It is, of course, necessary to learn from international experiences and there are notes on the overall, global impact ((Sangheon Lee; Gerry Rodgers) of the pandemic and the variety of recessions due to lockdowns (Jomo Kwame Sundaram). There are also specific analysis of the situation in Sub-Saharan Africa (Michael Danquah, Simone Schotte and Kunal Sen) and Brazil (Ian Prates and Rogerio Barbosa); along with a comparative analysis of the impact on workers in the unorganized sectors in India, Brazil and South Africa (Marty Chen). 

In looking forward there are notes on the likely future of the platform economy (Uma Rani); the political economy of the reorganization of value chains, global and regional (Dev Nathan); and of the unorganized sector (Reema Nanavaty); the development of the health sector (Sumit Mazumdar); the place of labour in the emerging political economy (Pratap Bhanu Mehta), strategizing post-coronial revival (Dipankar Gupta) and possible development pathways (Ashwani Saith). The Symposium also has contributions from Alakh Sharma and Deepak Nayyar.