New Delhi: A study on non-migrants by a US and Canadian University has a depressing news - average weekly incomes for nine out of ten respondents has crashed to zero during the first week of May. The study based on data collected from 1,392 non-migrant workers, many of whom live in Delhi's informal settlements concluded that average weekly incomes dropped by at least 57 percent.
The study conducted by the University of Chicago and the University of British Columbia collated data from respondents in 2018, 2019 and during the lockdown between March 27 and May 13.
In a major economic finding, the study said, "the average weekly income of our sample pre-lockdown was $39.46 (Rs 2,994). In Round 1, average income decreased to $24.10 (Rs 1,828.64) and in Round 2, average income fell further to $ 5.43 (Rs 412)."
The Round 1 was from March 27 to April 19 and Round 2 was from April 25 to May 13. 32 per cent of the sample held salaried jobs at baseline (i.e., occupations that pay income monthly, as opposed to daily), 29 per cent held jobs commonly associated with the lower rungs of the income ladder, including auto-rickshaw drivers, street vendors, skilled labourers, construction workers, and domestic workers. The average weekly income at baseline is roughly Rs 3,000, compared to roughly Rs 6,000 in the representative National Sample Survey (NSS) data corresponding to Delhi.
Economic and behavioral studies on the individuals was assessed in a pre-lockdown and post-lockdown manner. There are relatively high rates of mental and emotional well-being problems, ongoing challenges in food supply chains, in terms of higher prices and lower quantities, and dwindling levels of reported savings, it found.
In what appears as a positive news, mask usage and hand-washing rose. Compared to levels before the arrival of COVID-19, mask usage rose from 20 per cent (during the air pollution season) to 90 per cent; time spent indoors increased from 44 per cent to 95 per cent, and regular handwashing rose from 88 per cent to 98 per cent, the study said.
"A big question we have right now is whether these positive behaviours can persist once the lockdown is lifted, even as fear and media coverage of COVID-19 begin to subside," added Ken Lee, Executive Director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago in India (EPIC India) and the lead author of the study.
The researchers also pointed to the role of extreme fear and media coverage in driving these unprecedented behavioural changes. Throughout the lockdown, 80 per cent of people reported feeling extremely concerned about COVID-19. To demonstrate the unparalleled media coverage of COVID-19, the researchers used Twitter data to show that since March 25, COVID-19 coverage has accounted for more than 56 per cent of all media coverage.
Lee added, "For this particular group of mostly non-migrant workers in Delhi, we have not yet seen alarming changes in rates of hunger, access to health care, scarcity, or security. A lot of people reported benefiting from the Delhi government''s food assistance programme. That said, the latest projections expect a surge in infections in the coming months, and so the government should prepare itself to rapidly expand these types of assistance programmes."
The study also used Facebook mobility data to conclude that intra-city movement dropped by 80 per cent, immediately following the Janata curfew, where it remained through early-May.