Job seekers under MGNREGA has jumped 50% as migrant workers forced to return home are desperate for livelihood

Labourers of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural employment Scheme engaging in work following Covid 19 protocol in Kozhikode BCCL

  • Enrollment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has surged by 40% to 50% during the lockdown.
  • More than 90 million of small traders and labourers have lost their jobs as now looking to the government to support their livelihood.
  • India’s unorganised labour force normally reverts to farming when jobs evaporate in other sectors, however, not everyone has landholdings — leading to a surge in demand for jobs under MNREGA.
The demand for employment guarantee in rural areas has surged by 40% to 50% as migrant workers head home during the nationwide coronavirus lockdown, revealed Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Daily-wage earners working away from homes turned into refugees overnight when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the nationwide lockdown on March 25.

Migrant workers walking along railway tracks to reach their villagesBCCL

More than 90 million of small traders and labourers have lost their jobs as workplaces shut down and employers vanished, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy ( CMIE).

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Jobs lost due the nationwide coronavirus lockdown in AprilCMIE/Flourish/BI India

Without a way to support their livelihood, millions now looking to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) for livelihood in these desperate times.

“We have already generated 14.62 crore man-days of work up to 13 May, which is for the 40% to 50% more people who have gotten enrolled compared to last May,” said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

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More people are looking for jobs under MGNREGA as enrollment surges by 50% with migrants forced to return home and are desperate to support their livelihood.

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Across the country, millions of migrant workers were seen trekking hundreds of kilometres as the lockdown as nearly 80% of them have lost their jobs during the lockdown, according to a survey by Azim Premji University. It’s not uncommon for India’s unorganised labour force to revert to farming when jobs evaporate in other sectors, however, not everyone has landholdings.

Migrants continue to walk home in April even as state borders remain sealedBCCL

Those who don’t die along the way — due to exhaustion or run over by speeding vehicles on the road — seem to be signing up for MGNREGA, which promises to provide at least 100-days of guaranteed wage employment in the form of unskilled manual work. “As of yesterday [May 13], there are around 2.33 crore wage seekers across 1.87 lakh gram panchayats,” said Sitharaman.

She explained that the scheme normally has an average annual outlay of ₹10,000 crore. “If it’s more this year, we will spend,” she said.
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Top highlights from Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's second tranche of COVID-19 stimulus

More people are looking for jobs under MGNREGA as enrollment surges by 50% with migrants forced to return home and are desperate to support their livelihood.