India today has a population of about 138 crore. Of this, about 75% or about 100+ crore are said to be in the working-age, usually calculated at above 15 years.
Taking the broadest definition of employment to include any kind of paid work, formal or informal – salary, daily wage or self-employment, in February 2020, pre-coronavirus pandemic and the national lockdown, about 40.4 crore Indians were employed, as per CMIE.
At that point, 3.4 crore were estimated to be unemployed. The CMIE report, two weeks into the lockdown flagged some alarming numbers. The CMIE estimated that only 27.7 per cent of the working-age population (103 crore, by the report) was employed soon after the lockdown began. That translates to 28.5 crore. So, within two weeks, the number of gainfully employed came down from 40.4 crore to 28.5 crore, a drop of 11.9 crore.
That in effect means that about 12 crore Indians lost employment in the first two weeks of the lockdown itself. If, say, 8 crore of these are the main or the only earner of their family, then one-third of the country’s 25 crore households (GOI figures from 2011) are today facing a livelihood crisis. Add to that the 3.4 crore who were in any case unemployed before the virus hit us. And you know how utterly dismal the situation really is.