1,001 Households Study

Report coming soon.

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an unprecedented upheaval of life for India’s citizens. The government-initiated lockdowns to enforce social distancing, the heightened adoption of technology to teach students and conduct office duties, and adjustment to new economic challenges contributed to losses in job security, schooling, food security, and well-being for the populace of India. However, these challenges were not distributed uniformly across the country.

Workers in the informal sector in India were hit hardest. Wage workers from a variety of occupations and industries, ranging from salt pan workers, street vendors, artisans, and cooks, were immediately impacted as they lost their meager but vital incomes within weeks of the initiation of a national lockdown in May of 2020. Arguably, women workers in the informal sector were especially vulnerable to job insecurity, receiving lower wages, and facing domestic violence at home.  

Objective

SEWA is a trade union of 2.6 million women across India who advocate for self-reliance and total employment. Importantly, the organization’s approach is heavily decentralized; women from various trades across India serve as leaders who are the brains & feet of SEWA’s operations. SEWA wished to consolidate evidence on the pandemic experience of its members, who faced significant losses in wages, employment, and the procurement of adequate food. It also wished to gauge the household-level impact of SEWA’s pandemic interventions in the domains of food, employment & education. The 1,001 Household Study is part of a mixed-methods approach to investigate these issues.

The adversities faced by workers in the informal sector, particularly women, need attention. Members of SEWA were able to navigate some of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic through collective action aimed at creating livelihood opportunities, providing virtual vocational training to members, and enabling women to gain access to preventive health resources and food rations. The 1,001 Household Study sheds light on some of the advantages of social safety nets such as collective action for informal women workers worldwide during periods of economic insecurity.

Methodology

The study captured the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic in five main domains: health, food security, wages, child education, and climate change. The research study was supervised by Dr. Balsari and in collaboration with local researchers from the All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI) and the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA).

The pilot of the study was conducted in January of 2023. Upon refining the questionnaire, enumerator training was then conducted on March 3rd. In the months of March and April, 34 enumerators from SEWA covered 1,000 plus households in 14 districts ranging from the metropolis of Ahmedabad to the Kutch desert. Identifying households through random sampling, contacting SEWA members from eligible households, and then conducting the survey for each household was a massive undertaking, and could not be possible without the efforts of SEWA.

Team

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

  • Satchit Balsari
  • Ravi Sadhu

All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI)

  • Vishal Pathak
  • Pallavi Rathod
  • Mahendra Singh Rana
  • Mihir Bhatt

Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)

  • Mansi Shah
  • Rehana Riyawala
  • Manali Shah
  • Prutha Vyas
  • SEWA’s urban and rural teams, District Coordinators, Aagewans, Enumerators.