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From Migrant Workers To Media Professionals: Pandemic Led To Job Loss For All

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

The unabated rise of Covid-19 cases in the country has not only led to one of the highest death rates in the world, but has also driven excruciating struggle for employees, who have been laid off massively, by various industries in the corporate sector.

While companies are equally battling to streamline their production midst pandemic, workplaces have resumed in tough conditions.

Many white-collar workers lost their livelihoods during the pandemic, while yet others have had to endure pay cuts and furloughs. Photo credit: Kasia Strek.

At times, when labour availability was limited, the generation of revenue in companies contracted to less than half. New safety and health norms had been implemented and yet, the functioning of companies and staff hiring remained complacent.

Some industries have been brilliantly expedited after resuming functioning; while those in hot zones continue to remain shut, on the other hand.

Migrant Workers Suffered A Lot

The whole nation has been an eyewitness to the tormenting ordeal of migrant workers, who were rendered jobless soon after the lockdown was put in place. Similarly, another havoc of mass layoff was witnessed in the industrial and corporate sector of the country.

Millions were left unemployed. The unprecedented whammy of hasty furloughs and massive pay cuts left all kinds of manpower distraught.

Migrant Workers walking back home during lockdown
Many migrant workers lost their lives as they were forced to hurry back home with limited means, during the lockdowns. Photo credit: PTI, via deccanherald.com

Employees have been the most vulnerable during the lockdown: even highly qualified professionals have been rendered jobless. So far, some light has been shed on the distress of daily wage workers, who were forced to walk hundreds of kilometers, so they could get back home.

Even so, large, small and medium scale employees, have been dealing with the Coronavirus impact. A majority of the unemployed professionals are mulling over how to secure a job, to sustain their livelihoods.

Many Industries Saw Lay-offs And Pay Cuts

In the wake of Covid-19, travel, tourism, leisure, hospitality, and the automobile industries experienced some of the worst hits. After the relaxation of the lockdowns, most industrial and corporate sectors have plummeted, with low revenues and huge pay cuts for their employees.

“Over 1.5 lakh people across various IT firms are expected to lose their jobs in the coming months,” said a report released on April 3, 2020.

Smaller firms have already contracted in size. The monthly balance sheets of companies have faced the bulk of the stress. While small companies and start-ups have evidently laid-off employees in abundance, even prominent media houses have sanctioned lay-offs and unpaid furloughs of employees.

Take the case of 28-year-old Gandharv Tannan, who was heading business development for the Philippines branch of an Indian hospitality start-up. Tannan was then promoted and had 12 managers reporting to him.

However, the company went back on its promises to its employee. Tannan was asked to resign when he returned to Delhi following the news of his father’s sudden death. “It’s a cruel world, but I had something bigger to handle,” he said.

India’s Leading Companies Impacted

Ever since my last email to you six weeks ago, I had hoped to write again soon in better times. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 crisis continues to unfold all around us, causing unprecedented economic and social destruction. It has also become evident that the Coronavirus crisis will not be eliminated any time soon. We will rather have to learn to live with the virus and resultant implications,” said Bhavish Aggarwal, the CEO and co-founder of Ola.

Ola’s revenue plunged nearly 15% in less than two months, due to which the company laid off 1,400 employees. However, its expedience took over when senior management officials started taking salary cuts to avoid extremes, but it wasn’t viable.

Ola decided to layoff 1,400 employees during the pandemic. Photo credit: AFP Photos.

“Today is one of the saddest days for Swiggy as we have to go through an unfortunate downsizing exercise. With a heavy heart, I have tried to share the reasons and details of the process below, because you deserve to know. In line with the above business decisions, we, unfortunately, have to part ways with 1,100 of our employees, spanning across grades and functions… over the next few days,” said Sriharsha Majety, the CEO and co-founder of Swiggy.

The food tech company promised to provide a medical insurance cover for employees who lost their jobs and their families, till December 31, 2020. It has now been trying to ensure a smooth career transition for impacted employees.

“Close to 90% of our trainers are still with Cult.fit. We are, in fact, committed to keeping them on the payroll for the foreseeable future while we ride off this crisis. We are also supporting them in all ways possible. While there is a change in their compensation models, it has been done to ensure that we are well set to ride this crisis out in the long term,” said Mukesh Bansal and Ankit Nagori, co-founders of Cult.fit.

The co-founders confirmed that 300 trainers, and other access staff majorly hired from small towns were laid off. However, Bansal and Nagori spoke of giving two months of salary to its ex-employees. Moreover, Cult.fit has provided them with access to health insurance and an emergency fund.

Job Providing Platforms Stepped Up

The pandemic didn’t just hurt the growth of companies, but also hampered the confidence of young employees in the country. Impressively, job portals had taken an initiative to rise to the occasion, by doing the needful during the pandemic.

Job providing websites like Naukri, Monster and Shine, stepped up to provide daily bread to unemployed people. For instance, naukri.com came up with a specified service for laid-off professionals, which offered them tips to better their resumes.

This eased the tracking of industry-wise job vacancies for unemployed people. Interestingly, all these laid-off employees were tagged as “immediately available” candidates who could easily come under the radar of human resource departments looking to hire.

 

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Monster.com, too, tried to ease the turmoil of laid-off employees by creating a separate section named “Covid-19 Resources”, coded in red. It provided career advice and helped candidates match their skills to particular jobs.

The website also consisted of a different section for “work from home” (WFH) jobs, for employees who can’t travel to their workplaces during the pandemic.

LinkedIn has also been amplifying the issues faced by employees who have been laid off. It has been lending a helping hand to such people.

Are There Enough Solutions, Or Do We Need More?

On a large scale, various companies had formed a “people + work connect” network, which is a global, collaborative alliance of companies like Accenture, Lincoln Financial Group, ServiceNowVerizon and more. It aims at cutting short the trail of unemployment, for people.

As prolonged lay-offs in the country continue, causing the corporate and industrial sector to nosedive, as the third wave seems to approach, job portals and a few, large-scale IT (information technology) companies have taken the initiative to provide bread and butter to the unemployed.

However, it is hard to estimate the exact number of unemployed people, who were largely struck by Covid-19 furloughs. There hasn’t been a real-time headcount on whether those who were provided with jobs are still working for those companies.

The diabolical cycle of lay-offs and employment is still continuing in companies, due to which the stability of each employee is affected.

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        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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        Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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        A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

        The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

        Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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