In the media
Many workers in India’s informal sector in dead-end jobs – findings of new study featured in national news

In a new WIDER Working Paper Transitions between informal and formal jobs in India – patterns, correlates, and consequences, researchers from UNU-WIDER, Sikkim University, and the University of Manchester show that despite high economic growth over the last decades, most of India’s poorest and low-skilled workers remain 'stuck' in a dead-end work status. The analysis is based on data on over 37,000 workers from the India Human Development Surveys of 2004–05 and 2011–12.

Published in August 2020, the research findings have been featured in leading media outlets in India including Mint, a financial daily published by the Hindustan Times, and Open, a weekly current affairs and features magazine. The study also featured in an in-depth article in Economic Times examining employment trends in an economy besieged by a pandemic-induced crisis. The study was the top highlight in the September 2020 newsletter of the India Human Development Survey.

The coverage highlights the finding that economic growth by itself may not make material difference to reducing the high rates of informality in India, and that direct state interventions that enhance the livelihoods of lower tier informal workers may be necessary.

Other findings taken from the working paper include that self-employed workers — both in the formal and informal sectors — show relatively more upward mobility than wage workers. The authors also show that low levels of education, social status, and geographical location act as main obstacles to upward mobility for those on the lower tier of the informal sector. Burdens are carried especially by women and lower castes.

Speaking to Open, Rajesh Raj Natarajan, one of the co-authors, commented on the implications in the context of India’s economic slide since the period under study and the COVID-19 crisis: 'Since that is the plight of such workers during a high-growth period, we can make a pretty shrewd guess about what lies in store for them when the economy is sluggish.'