Tracking Employment Trajectories In the Covid-19 Pandemic: Evidence from the CMIE-CPHS Panel

We hosted the third Consumer Pyramids Research Seminar on 15 December 2020 at 6.00 PM IST.

Dr. Rosa Abraham and Prof. Amit Basole of the Center for Sustainable Employment at the Azim Premji University presented Tracking Employment Trajectories In the Covid-19 Pandemic: Evidence from the CMIE-CPHS Panel. This paper is jointly written with Prof. Surbhi Kesar (CSE, APU). Their paper was discussed by Dr. Siddharth Sharma of the World Bank.

You can view a recording of the presentation, discussion and Q&A on YouTube. The authors have published their work as Center for Sustainable Employment Working Paper 35. Among other things, the updated paper incorporates suggestions from Dr. Siddharth Sharma’s discussion and audience questions.

This work was part of a larger effort by economists at Azim Premji University to analyse the economic impact of the COVID-19 lockdown, suggest policy responses, and the ways to finance them. In the run-up to Budget 2021-22, the team at the Center for Sustainable Employment discussed their research extensively in the popular media. They discuss the findings from this paper in articles published in the Hindustan Times, Mint and IndiaSpend as well as in an interview televised on New24.


Using the CMIE’s Consumer Pyramids Household Survey, we track a panel of households prior to the lockdown (in December 2019), during the lockdown (in April 2020) and afterwards (in August 2020) to investigate the employment and income effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated containment measures.

We identify four distinct employment experiences during the pandemic for those who were in the workforce just prior to the lockdown: no loss of employment (’No effect’), loss of employment followed by recovery (’Recovery’), loss of employment with no recovery (’No recovery’), and a delayed loss of employment (’Delayed job loss’).

Overall, 54% of individuals experienced no job loss, while 30% lost work in April but recovered by August. 12% had not recovered employment as of August 2020. We analyse how these trajectories vary across different social and economic characteristics to quantify contractions and recovery in the labour market and the extent to which the vulnerabilities vary across different social groups, employment arrangements, and industries.

We find that women were substantially more likely to lose employment as well as less likely to recover employment. Job loss was also more severe for lower castes as compared to intermediate and upper castes and for daily wage workers as compared to regular wage workers. Younger workers were particularly vulnerable to job loss compared to older workers. Having lost employment in April, younger workers were also less likely to recover employment in August.

Finally, for those who were employed in both December 2019 and August 2020, we examine the changes in employment arrangements. We find a much greater frequency of transitions from wage employment to self-employment, more than that in the seasonally comparable period last year (Dec 2018 to Aug 2019). Our results call for urgent additional fiscal measures to counteract these effects.

About the Consumer Pyramids Research Seminar Series

The Consumer Pyramids Research Seminar Series features work based on the Consumer Pyramids Household Survey. It is a platform for researchers to receive critical and technical feedback from accomplished peers. It is also meant to engage with the larger research community who may gain from technical discussions.

The Consumer Pyramids Household Survey is India’s largest regular household survey and the world’s largest household panel survey. CPHS has collected data on over 232,000 households and 1.19 million individuals surveyed since 2014. The survey collects information on household demographics, individual identities, employment, health status, financial inclusion, individual and household incomes, consumption expenditures, ownership of assets and intentions to buy them, household amenities and consumer sentiments. Income and expenses data are a monthly time-series since January 2014.

Record-level data from all 20 Waves of CPHS is available through a subscription service. Data from the May-Aug 2020 Wave of CPHS has already been released to subscribers. Please visit our website to learn more about CPHS and how to gain access to the record-level data.

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