Down and Out? The Gendered Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on India’s Labour Market

Rosa Abraham, Amit Basole, Surbhi Kesar
Azim Premji University

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The Covid-19 pandemic has created unprecedented disruptions in labour markets across the world including loss of employment and decline in incomes. Using panel data from India, we investigate the differential impact of the shock on labour market outcomes for male and female workers. We find that, conditional on being in the workforce prior to the pandemic, women were seven times more likely to lose work during the nationwide lockdown, and conditional on losing work, eleven times more likely to not return to work subsequently, compared to men. Using logit regressions on a sample stratified by gender, we find that daily wage and young workers, whether men or women, were more likely to face job loss. Education shielded male workers from job loss, whereas highly educated female workers were more vulnerable to job loss. Marriage had contrasting effects for men and women, with married women less likely to return to work and married men more likely to return to work. Religion and gender intersect to exacerbate the disproportionate impact, with Muslim women more likely to not return to work, unlike Muslim men where we find religion having no significant impact. Finally, for those workers who did return to work, we find that a large share of men in the workforce moved to self-employment or daily wage work, in agriculture, trade or construction. For women, on the other hand, there is limited movement into alternate employment arrangements or industries. This suggests that typical ‘fallback’ options for employment do not exist for women. During such a shock, women are forced to exit the workforce whereas men negotiate across industries and employment arrangements.

Keywords: Covid-19, India, lockdown, employment transitions, gender, self-employment

Suggested citation:

Abraham Rosa, Amit Basole and Surbhi Kesar. 2021. “Down and Out? The Gendered Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on India’s Labour Market” Centre for Sustainable Employment Working Paper #40, Azim Premji University, Bangalore.