INDIA: India’s unemployment rate reached a five-week low on 26 April as the government eased lockdown in different parts of the country with its relaxation norms. Rural economy reopened gradually to salvage the harvesting season.

According to the Centre for Monitoring of Indian Economy (CMIE), India’s overall weekly unemployment rate started its climb from 6.74% on 15th March to 26.19% on 19th April. The unemployment figures, however, saw a decline to 21.05% in the week after. The numbers are significant as India reopened several sectors, including agriculture activities, in non-hotspots from 20 April to bring the economy back on track which earlier come to a standstill amid the covid-19 lockdown.

The rural economy that deploys the larger section of work-force also saw a fall in unemployment rate to 20.88% in joblessness rate during the same period. This is for the first time since the week of April that the rural unemployment figures showed de-growth.

Urban unemployment rate also showed a decreasing trend. On 26 April, urban joblessness fell to 21.45% from a high of 30.93% on 5 April. In the week ended 19 April, this figure was 25.08%.

While economists hailed the positive pointers, they cautioned things may slip back to severe situation as states gear up to bring millions of stranded migrants home.

“It’s a positive thing but too early to clap. Yes, the reopening of the rural economy in parts has helped absorb people to some extent but remember as states take back their people stranded on roads and shelter camps, this may change. It will add to the rural labour market and increase the struggle to land a job if not planned well by governments,” said K.R. Shyamsundar, a labour economist.

With the second phase of the nationwide lockdown nearing its end, various protests from different workforces are emerging. Small business owners, farmers and daily wage earners are at huge risk. Reports from different parts of the country have surfaced owing to rising unemployment and decline of businesses.

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in his latest briefing said that, “We have to popularise work from home (WFH) norm. There are many restrictions for it like money deposits & clearances, these things were relaxed till April 30 after Covid-19 outbreak. We have decided to extend the relaxation till July 31.” As of now, no significant plan of action has been put out to the notice of the public by the Government. However, a thorough map to prevent further economic losses is expected soon by the Govt amid the health crisis faced by the country.