THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The livelihood of at least 73 lakh people in the state has been hit by the ongoing lockdown.Of the 1.27-crore strong workforce in Kerala, 57.7% work in manufacturing, construction, trade, transport and hotels and restaurant industries that have been directly hit by the lockdown.
While most of them are not earning anything, a few companies that are closed provide sustenance allowances to workers as a humanitarian gesture.
Owing to the lockdown, the loss of wages suffered by self-employed and casual workers in the state amounted to Rs 350 crore per day, a study by the Kerala State Planning Board on the economic impact of last year’s lockdown has found.
It said one month of lockdown deprived the state’s workforce Rs 10,500 crore in wages. The state government, which is gearing up to extend till June 23 the lockdown that started on May 8, hasn’t introduced any cash transfer scheme for employees facing financial crunch, other than extending the monthly free grocery kit distribution for all families by another month.
As per the periodic labour force survey of 2018, out of the 1.27 crore workers in Kerala, 48.1 lakh were self-employed and 43.8 lakh were regular workers.
The remaining 35.2 lakh were casual workers. The total workforce comprised 93.7 lakh men and 33.4 lakh women.
The loss of wages is spread over all these categories, among which the service sector has taken a big blow. This sector, employing 65.6 lakh workers, is the largest source of employment in Kerala.
The planning board study held in May last year also estimated that during the first quarter of 2020-21 fiscal when the national lockdown paralysed normal life, the state would suffer a shortfall of at least Rs 8,000 crore in the gross value addition (GVA).
State heading towards severe crisis: Expert
Like GDP (Gross Domestic Product), GVA indicates the gross value of economic produce except that GDP includes tax components while the latter records the pure value of the produce.
If the state is locked down for a month, the loss of GVA suffered by the manufacturing sector would be Rs 6,600 crore.
In the previous lockdown, when hotels and restaurants were fully shut, the monthly loss of GVA suffered by the sector was around Rs 15,000 crore.
Economist B A Prakash said the estimated losses will be higher this time and the state is heading towards unprecedented financial crisis.
“Governments in many other countries took the health of the economy into account while unveiling measures to contain the virus. Unfortunately, our governments are not taking this angle seriously,” said Prakash.
He said the ideal way before the state government would be to restart the economy with reasonable restrictions.
“There can be a phased unlocking and even stricter monitoring of social distancing norms. Let’s not deny people their livelihood and focus entirely on fighting the virus,” he said.