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The impact of COVID-19 on India’s rural youth

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The impact of COVID-19 on India’s rural youth

Research from Warwick economists and collaborators, published in the World Development journal, has revealed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young migrant workers from rural areas in India.

Bhaskar Chakravorty, Clement Imbert and colleagues followed a cohort of 2,260 young workers from rural areas in the states of Bihar and Jharkhand who had participated in a national vocational training scheme that provides trade-specific training to disadvantaged rural youth and places them into formal salaried jobs, often in other states. They interviewed the same individuals three times after the first national lockdown in 2020, between June 2020 and December 2021.

They found that nearly a third (32%) of respondents who were in salaried jobs before lockdown lost their jobs, and half of those who worked out of state returned home shortly after the lockdown. Respondents also reported higher levels of anxiety and lower life satisfaction compared to the pre-lockdown period.

There was a stark difference between men and women: while many men who lost their jobs took up informal employment, most women dropped out of the labour force.

Using a randomised control trial, the researchers also studied the effectiveness of an app-based job platform used by several state governments in India to help trainees find work. However, they found that it led to no increase in job searching or employment rates.

Commenting on the results, Dr Chakravorty said: “Governments increasingly look to digital tools as low-cost interventions to engage job seekers but there is relatively little literature to date on how online platforms impact employment rates. Our findings suggest that bridging the gap between rural young workers and formal jobs requires more active and targeted policy interventions, especially for female workers.”

Read the full paper: Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on India’s Rural Youth: Evidence from a Panel Survey and an Experiment, by Bhaskar Chakravorty, Apurav Yash Bhatiya, Clement Imbert, Maximilian Lohnert, Poonam Panda and Roland Rathelot, was published in the World Development journal in May 2023.

A version of this article was published in July 2022 when the research was published in the Warwick Economics Research Paper series.