Asia’s workers can’t afford to stay at home: The Economist

In an Economist report titled ‘Get sick or go hungry’, showed how Coronavirus is affecting the lives of informal workers in Asia. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the UN agency for the region said, “seventy per cent of workers in Asia and the Pacific do not have formal jobs, with contracts, salaries or sick leave, but instead do things like driving rickshaws for a living.”

Now with the quarantine measures brought in place without any safety net, this humongous number of workers is left with two choices between getting sick or going hungry.

The report further pointed, “Governments in poorer Asian countries realise there is little point declaring a lockdown if their citizens cannot afford to abide by one, and so are trying to help.”

After spotting this problem, the governments have to turn to identify the beneficiaries. However, informal workers have never been accounted in the government databases in the first place. This problem is further exacerbated by the increase in the number of crummy due to the pandemic.

“According to the ILO estimates the reduction of working hours in Asia this quarter equates to 125 million people losing their jobs. The World Bank expects the impending recession will push up to 11 million Asians below a poverty line of Rs 400 a day.”

The second problem that the report highlights is identifying what handouts need be provided. Some countries like the Philippines, Myanmar and Bangladesh are doling out food.  In India, more than 800m people who were already eligible for subsidised food are getting extra rations. Cash is another option. Finally, the report concludes by saying that this pandemic provides the Asian countries with an opportunity to improve public health care and expand safety nets with the help of billions of dollars pledged by Asian Development Bank and World Bank.

Link to the original report: https://www.economist.com/asia/2020/04/16/asias-workers-cant-afford-to-stay-at-home

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