Increasing exploitation of workers during the Corona Virus pandemic

Taking advantage of the Corona virus pandemic, the capitalist class in power, headed by the Tatas, Ambanis, Birlas, Adanis and other monopoly houses, has unleashed an unprecedented offensive against the working class during 2020 and 2021.

Repeated lockdowns, privatisation of public assets and pro-capitalist labour law reforms have together led to massive destruction of jobs and terrible intensification of exploitation of employed workers.  Longer hours of work at the same or lower wages and denial of even the most basic rights are rapidly becoming the norm in one industry after another.

In 2019-20, the year before the lockdowns began, there were about 41 crore persons who were gainfully employed, of which 22 crore were hired wage-workers and 19 crore were self-employed persons such as peasants, artisans, individual professionals and shopkeepers. The hired workers consisted of about 9 crore salaried employees and 13 crore contract and daily-wage workers, according to the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE).

By December 2021, the number of salaried employees, those with the best quality jobs, had declined to less than 8 crore.  In other words, about one crore (10 million) salaried jobs have been destroyed during the past two years. About 98 lakh (9.8 million) jobs have been destroyed in manufacturing industry, 50 lakh jobs in hotels and tourism, and 40 lakh jobs in education.  Employment in retail trade and home delivery has increased by 78 lakhs.  These numbers show that there has been a huge shift from regular employment to irregular temporary employment.

The insecurity of the working class has greatly increased.  Capitalist employers are taking advantage of this situation to extract more unpaid labour out of their employees.

Indian workers were toiling for longer hours every week than in most other countries even before the Corona virus broke out.  According to a survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) in 2018, workers in Indian cities worked for 54 hours per week, far higher than the global average of 43 hours.  Nearly 55 percent of rural workers and 70 percent of urban workers in India were engaged for more than 48 hours a week, which is the upper limit recommended by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The situation has become worse for many workers during the past two years.  Working from home has led to a further increase in already high working hours.

While working hours have increased, workers’ wages have not kept pace.  On the contrary, they have been pushed down, not only in India but on the world scale. According to the Global Wage Report 2020-21, published by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Corona virus crisis resulted in a 10.7 per cent decline in global labour income.

The government has passed four labour codes, to replace 44 labour laws. These labour codes enable the capitalist class to intensify the exploitation of workers.

In sum, the capitalist class, whose interest is defended by the State and whose agenda is implemented by the Government, has used the Corona virus crisis to launch an all-sided assault on the working class.

The intensification of their exploitation has led to widespread anger among the workers.  There is growing unity against the privatisation program and the anti-worker labour codes.  Workers’ unions in large-scale industry and services are uniting in struggle, rising above differences in their affiliation to rival parties and federations.

The capitalist media admits that the profits of the richest capitalists in our country have grown by leaps and bounds during 2000 and 2021.  However, what is hidden is the fact that the principal source of such a huge increase in capitalist profits lies in the great intensification of exploitation of the working class.


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