A Blueprint for recovery after pandemic

  • The article has been authored by National Data Innovation Centre, NCAER
A Blueprint for recovery after(Sanchit Khanna / HT Photo)
A Blueprint for recovery after(Sanchit Khanna / HT Photo)
Updated on Mar 18, 2022 08:16 PM IST
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ByNational Council of Applied Economic Research

The National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) recently released the results of its Delhi Metropolitan Area Study (DMAS). The study was conducted by NCAER’s National Data Innovation Centre (NDIC), which began monitoring the living conditions of households in the National Capital Region (NCR) in 2019 and continued the study until 2021 to trace the impact of Covid. The results show the success of some of the public policies while highlighting considerable scarring. As the nation seeks to recover from this scarring caused by the pandemic, special programmes for small business owners who lost their investments may be needed. Health and education policies may also need to consider providing remedial services.  

NCAER’s National Data Innovation Centre (NCAER-NDIC) launched the DMAS in early 2019 and interviewed 5,253 households from the National Capital Region (NCR) between February and May 2019 (baseline), posing questions about their income, expenditure, employment, education, and health conditions. Following the advent of the pandemic, 4,292 of the original households were interviewed again between August and November 2021 to evaluate changes in their household conditions and experiences during the pandemic. This before and after survey provides a unique opportunity to assess the impact of the pandemic on the lives of citizens in Delhi and other parts of NCR.          

         NCAER’s Delhi NCR coronavirus telephone survey conducted in April 2020 had found that 87% of respondents supported the complete lockdown announced on March 24, 2020. Although this support has weakened somewhat over time, particularly among the poor, it still remains remarkably strong. More than 70% of the respondents said that it was a good decision. Even among the poorest who were most affected by the lockdown, 64% expressed support for it.

After a period of initial hesitation and supply shortage, the vaccination drive appears to have gained momentum and has been notably successful. As per data collected during DMAS (August - November 2021), 81% of the NCR households reported that at least one member had been vaccinated with at least one dose; in 43% of the households, all the eligible individuals above the age of 18 had been vaccinated with at least one dose. 

The complete lockdown during March 2020 and the subsequent lockdown during the second Delta wave from April 2021 onwards affected employment, particularly in the urban areas. However, by August 2021, after the second wave subsided, employment had almost completely recovered. The work participation rate for men in the age group of 15-59 years, which had been 80% in the pre-pandemic period, had rebounded to 78% after the second wave; the corresponding figures for women were 44% and 43%, respectively. 

However, the fragility of this recovery is highlighted by two observations. First, disease and lockdown reduced the number of days that individuals worked in 12 months. Second, the pandemic ostensibly destabilised work for individuals in specific occupations, forcing some of them to seek other employment and pushing some others into unemployment. Among men, only 61% of the individuals who worked in family business, mainly micro-enterprises, could continue while over 80% of the farmers and 72% of the salaried workers were able to continue their prior occupations; for women, in addition to casual labour and business, salaried work also became precarious, with only 63% of them being able to continue as salaried workers, and 25% did not work at all. 

A comparison of consumption patterns in 2018-19 and 2020-21 suggests that while real consumption has declined somewhat, most of this decline is related to discretionary items. Expenditure on food and on daily necessities has remained relatively stable. However, much of this stability comes on account of increased grain distribution via the Public Distribution System (PDS). The per capita purchase of rice and wheat from PDS increased by about 0.19 kg and 0.36 kg, respectively, for the Below Poverty Line (BPL) card-holders, and by 0.17 kg and 0.86 kg, respectively, for the non-BPL households, while purchase from the market declined for both sets of households. 

 

The DMAS study found that the proportion of individuals reporting high blood pressure had nearly doubled during the pandemic, from 2.9% to 4.4% among individuals above the age 15 years. Moreover, the proportion of individuals suffering from chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure, who did not receive regular care and medication, increased substantially compared to the baseline (see attached Figure). 

While schools and teachers made great efforts at reaching students despite the health challenges they faced, learning losses stemming from pandemic-related closure of schools are likely to be vast. Among children aged 6-18 years, 17% either never enrolled or dropped out, and 32% were enrolled but did not receive any education during this period. Only 50% had access to either some learning materials or online classes. 

Thus, as the nation struggles to recover from the effects of the pandemic, it is important to address three key areas—closure of small businesses, learning losses, and long-term health impacts—to address the scarring left behind by the pandemic.  

Helping small and micro-business owners to restart the businesses that the pandemic had compelled them to shut down may be a crucial step in rebooting the economy. As regards education, it is vital to prepare remedial instruction plans for students who have been out of school for two years to stem further academic loss. The potential long-term impact of the pandemic with regard to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) also deserves monitoring. 

 

 

 

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Monday, July 04, 2022