State of Working India 2021: One year of Covid-19


During the nation-wide lockdown during April-May 2020, about 100 million workers lost their jobs. About 15 million workers continued to be out of work even by the end of 2020, this report states. Published in April 2021, the report analyses the impact of Covid-19 on jobs and income in India. 

The report has been published by the Centre for Sustainable Employment, Azim Premji University, Karnataka. It evaluates data between March and December 2020. The primary data sources are the Consumer Pyramids Household Survey (CPHS) from the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) (which has been defined as “a continuous survey to measure household well-being in India”); COVID-19 Livelihood Phone Survey (CLIPS) and the India Working Survey (IWS), both conducted by Azim Premji University.

The report also examines the effectiveness of policy measures to offer relief and support during Covid-19 and suggests revisions to short- and medium-term social protection schemes. 

This 240-page report is divided into eight chapters: Introduction (Chapter 1); The Indian economy prior to the pandemic (Chapter 2); Employment loss and recovery (Chapter 3); Informalisation and earnings losses (Chapter 4); Falling incomes, rising hunger and indebtedness (Chapter 5); India’s social protection architecture (Chapter 6); Effectiveness of the Covid-19 policy response (Chapter 7); Policy recommendations for the short and medium term (Chapter 8).


  1. Even in late 2020, the average household income in India had not recovered to pre-pandemic numbers. For an average household of four members, the monthly per capita income in October 2020 was Rs. 4,979, while the per capita income has been Rs. 5,989 in January 2020.

  2. Using data from Consumer Pyramids Household Survey by CMIE, the report calculates that a 10 per cent decline in mobility (such as those caused by the Covid-19 lockdown) led to a 7.5 per cent decline in income.

  3. During the lockdown, 47 per cent of women who were employed before April-May 2020 suffered a permanent job loss, and did not return to work even by the end of 2020.

  4. Younger workers were disproportionately impacted by the job losses, the report states. About 33 per cent of workers (aged 15-24 years) failed to recover employment even by December 2020. For workers aged 25-44 years, six per cent failed to recover their employments by the end of 2020.

  5. Between late 2019 and late 2020, nearly half of the formal salaried workers shifted to informal jobs - either as self-employed (30 per cent), casual wagers (10 per cent) or informal salaried workers (nine per cent).

  6. Workers from General category and Hindus were more likely to begin self-employment. Those belonging to marginalised castes and Muslims took up daily wage work.

  7. As per data from the Consumer Pyramids Household Survey by CMIE, the shift to informal jobs caused a 17 per cent drop in overall monthly earnings in the country.

  8. The report states that in April-May 2020, the poorest 20 per cent of the households in India earned no income.

  9. During the pandemic, an additional 230 million people were pushed to earning an income below the national minimum wage threshold of Rs. 375 per day.

  10. The CLIPS survey by Azim Premji University quotes 90 percent respondents who reported that their household had to reduce food intake due to the lockdown. The survey was conducted during 2020 across 12 states in India.

  11. The CLIPS survey revealed that 81 per cent migrants, compared to the 64 per cent non-migrants, lost employment during the April-May lockdown.

  12. The report recommends increasing the number of work days under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) to 150 days –increasing it from the 100 days of paid work in a year presently provided to rural households in India. It also recommends increasing its allocated budget to at least Rs. 1.75 lakh crores.

    Focus and Factoids by Abizar Shaikh.


Centre for Sustainable Employment, Azim Premji University


Centre for Sustainable Employment, Azim Premji University


Apr, 2022