Workers fit out Maruti Suzuki Swift cars on an assembly line in Manesar in Haryana state. Photo: AFP

An Asian Development Bank (ADB) and International Labour Organization (ILO) report has painted a grim picture of India’s employment crisis as it battles the surging Covid-19 caseload.

The report, ‘Tackling the Covid-19 youth employment crisis in Asia and the Pacific’, released on Tuesday, states that as many as 6.1 million young people (15-24 years) in India may lose their jobs in 2020 if containing the virus takes six months (roughly till September). Overall, 14.8 million youngsters will suffer job losses in 13 countries in the region and the second-highest number will be in Pakistan (2.3 million).

India’s unemployment rate will soar to as much as 32.5% and the worst hit will be those employed in the construction and farming sectors. Job losses will also happen in textiles, inland transportation, retail, and hotels and restaurants.

The report’s findings show that in the short run, those aged 15-24 will be hit harder than those above 25. Nearly two-thirds of firm-level apprenticeships and three quarters of internships were completely disrupted during the pandemic, it added. The report arrived at estimates based on available unemployment data in different countries.

The current crisis has affected employment prospects in three ways – reduced working hours and earnings; job losses for both paid workers and the self-employed, and disruptions in education and training. This has created hurdles in transitioning from school to work and moving between jobs in a recession.

The ILO and ADB have urged the government to adopt urgent, large-scale and targeted measures to generate jobs for the youth, keep education and training on track, and to minimize future scarring of young people. The report suggested balancing the inclusion of the youth in wider labor market and economic recovery measures, with youth-targeted interventions to maximize effective allocation of resources.

Even before the Covid-19 crisis, youth in Asia and the Pacific faced challenges in the labor market, resulting in high unemployment rates and large shares of youth excluded from both school and work. Four in five young workers in the region were employed in informal sectors and one in four were living in extreme to moderate poverty, the report said.

“The pre-crisis challenges for youth are now amplified since Covid-19 hit. Without sufficient attention, our fear is that this risk is creating a ‘lockdown generation’ that could feel the weight of this crisis for many years to come,” said Sara Elder, lead author of the report and head of the ILO’s regional economic and social analysis unit.

Meanwhile, India’s Covid-19 caseload has crossed 2.7 million and it is the third-highest in the world. The US tops the list with 5.6 million cases, followed by Brazil (3.63 million), according to worldometers.info. The worst-affected states are Maharashtra (over 600,000 cases), Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh (300,000 each).

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