Impact of COVID-19 on migrant women workers and policy implications of MGNREGA
Keywords:MGNREGA, COVID-19 19, Employability, Migrant Women
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about unprecedented change in societies and amplified many socio-economic crises. India has witnessed a massive crisis among the migrant workers which resulted in a severe blow to the livelihood of millions of migrant workers, especially women migrant workers. Most migrant workers are daily-wage earners, and absence of work for extended periods makes it difficult to afford the cost of living. The emerging evidence from this pandemic and experience from previous disease outbreaks shows that it’s women who will disproportionately bear the resulting socioeconomic hardships. According to an estimate by the UN 2019, 90% of the women workforce are part of the informal sector and migrant workers. In addition to this is the uncertainty around the timelines for normalization of the situation.
Amidst this MGNREGA has become very crucial in the current scenario. The merits of the program make an attractive proposition during the COVID-19 crisis and reverse migration. It is the largest work guarantee programme in the world with the primary objective of guaranteeing 100 days of wage employment per year to rural households. The programme emphasizes on strengthening the process of decentralization by giving a significant role to Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in planning and implementing these works. This unique feature has attracted the participation of more rural women. They have taken this as an opportunity towards more economic freedom and inclusion in the workforce. In this context, the government has allocated additional provisions under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan Package to provide local employment to the returning migrant’s workers. However the program is afflicted with certain implementation issues and MGNREGA wage rates for being below the minimum agricultural wage rate, the wages paid under the schemes are lower than the minimum wage rates. With very low wages, the expansion of the MGNREGA scheme under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan package seems questionable. However, it is important that we observe if these measures are a sufficient solution to employment generation and poverty reduction in the COVID crisis?
This study explores the impact of COVID-19 on rural migrant women and the policy implications of MGNREGA. It aims to understand the role of MGNREGA during this critical economic climate and gaps in policy implementation. Moreover, it emphasizes the effectiveness of MGNREGA as a tool for post-COVID rural recovery.