Coronavirus – Economic Issues

Differential impact of COVID and the lockdown


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Impact of covid pandemic

Though pandemic has been called as the great leveller, closer look at the impact of Covid on the marginalised section indicate otherwise. This article examines the impact of pandemic with respect to responsible factors.

The marginalised at risk

  • Preliminary data and early indirect evidence from several parts of the world indicate that the incidence of the disease is not class-neutral.
  • Poorer and economically vulnerable populations are more likely to contract the virus as well as to die from it.
  • Economic consequences of the current pandemic are likely to be most concentrated among the low wage earners.
  • Disaggregated data on COVID-19 incidence and mortality are not available for India.
  • Thus, we cannot comment on whether certain caste groups are more vulnerable to the virus than others.

Cast factor: Let’s look into CMIE survey

  • India’s lockdown was among the most stringent.
  • The first month of the severe lockdown, April 2020, witnessed a sharp rise in unemployment.
  • Let’s examine shifts in employment and unemployment rates using data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE)’s Consumer Pyramids Household Survey (CPHS) database.
  • That the proportion of employed upper castes dropped from 39% to 32% between December 2019 and April 2020, a fall of seven percentage points.
  • The corresponding fall for Scheduled Castes (SCs) was from 44% to 24%, i.e. a fall of 20 percentage points.
  • Other Backward Classes and Scheduled Tribes (STs) the fall was from 42% to 34%, 40% to 26% and 48% to 33%.
  • Thus, the fall in employment for SCs and STs was far greater in magnitude than that for upper castes.

Education factor

  • The global evidence suggests that job losses associated with COVID-19 are much more concentrated among individuals with low levels of education.
  • Those with more than 12 years of education, were much less likely to be unemployed in April 2020 than those with less than 12 years of education.
  •  Data from the India Human Development Survey for 2011-12 (IHDS-II) show that 51% of SC households have adult women who have zero years of education, i.e. are illiterate, and 27% have an illiterate adult male member.
  •  Thus, in the face of current school closures, parents of SC children would be much less equipped to assist their children with any form of home learning.

Access to technology and other factors

  • The proportion of households with access to the Internet is 20% and 10% for UC and SC households, respectively.
  •  Only 49% of SCs have bank savings, as compared to 62% of Upper Caste households.
  • Differential access to information technology, as well as disparities in the ability to invest in technology, will be critical in shaping access to online education.

Consider the question “Examine the impact of Covid on the vulnerable section of society. Suggest the measures to mitigate the impact.”


Early impacts of the pandemic-induced lockdown indicate that the resultant economic distress is exacerbating pre-existing structures of disadvantage based on social identity, and investments in education and health.

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