The coronavirus pandemic rampages on, having infected more than 3.3 million people across the globe and killing over two hundred and thirty thousand. The novel virus has also infected the world economy like never before: knocking down global financial markets, sending oil prices in the negative zone for the first time in history, and bringing nearly all big and small businesses to a grinding halt, etc. This decline in the global economy — described by the IMF as the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s — has been felt by all and sundry, from the man in the mansion to the dweller in the hut; from a high-profile tech tycoon to a nickel-and-dime street vendor; from policymakers scrambling to prune annual budgets to housewives who are forced to cut down on home spendings; and from a somebody to a nobody.
Amid this unprecedented economic upheaval, labourers and daily wage earners are a segment that has been hit like nobody else. While the labourers have been the most vulnerable social class even in the normal times, they have been squeezed dry in these days of lockdowns resulting from the mushrooming coronavirus. So tough is the situation that a majority of these out-of-work labourers have been forced to beg on the streets so as to feed their families. And those who cannot stretch out their hands for alms have no other option but to remain empty stomach. The labour world has indeed experienced a great turbulence.
And what else than the 1st of May can be a more opportune time to remind our rulers of the unfulfilled promises that they make year after year on the occasion of the World Labour Day. Informal employment in various contractual forms is what defines our labour market. There is need to bring in genuine reforms in the labour market — something that acquires special significance in the present context.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2020.
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