More Workers Rely On Agriculture, Informal Jobs Post Pandemic


More workers rely on the agricultural sector and on informal employment in the aftermath of the pandemic, showed the government’s annual Periodic Labour Force Survey for the period from July 2020-June 2021. This was a period when livelihoods were impacted by a sharp slowdown in the economy and restrictions placed on normal business. Alongside, reverse migration from urban to rural areas reversed a trend where employment in agriculture was in decline.

According to the PLFS, 38.9% of rural households were self-employed in agriculture in the period under survey. This was the second consecutive year that reliance on agriculture increased. In the pre-pandemic year, 36.6% of rural households were engaged in agriculture.

The annual PLFS takes stock of both rural and urban employment while the quarterly surveys only provide a picture of urban employment.

As a result of greater self-employment in agriculture, the total share of self-employed also rose in rural areas. It also rose in urban areas as jobs became tough to come by.

In the period under review, 54.8% of rural households were self-employed compared to 53.2% a year and 51.7% pre-pandemic. In urban areas, the share of self-employed rose to 33.2%.

The survey also suggests that more workers had to rely on informal jobs.

76.4% of workers in rural areas and 65.5% of urban workers were employed in the informal sector between July 2020 and June 2021.

To be sure, there has been some improvement in working conditions in the informal sector.

  • The percentage of regular wage/salaried employees who had no written job contract fell to 64.3% in the period under survey compared to 67.3% a year ago and 69.5% pre-pandemic.

  • The percentage of regular wage/salaried employees not eligible for paid leave fell to 47.9% from 52.3% a year ago and 53.8% two years ago.

  • The percentage of regular wage/salaried employees not eligible for any social security benefit dropped to 53.8% in the July 2020-June 2021 period from 54.2% in the previous year. However, pre-pandemic, 51.9% did not have access to social security.

Unemployment rates eased from the peaks scaled after the pandemic first hit.

By current weekly status, the unemployment rate in rural areas fell to 6.4% from 7.9% a year ago. By usual status, the unemployment rate fell to 3.3% in rural areas from 4%.

For urban areas, the unemployment rate by usual status fell to 6.7% from 7% a year ago. By current weekly status, the unemployment rate in urban areas stood at 10.1% versus 11% a year ago.

Unemployment among the youth, while high, also fell.

For those aged 15-29, the unemployment rate in rural areas stood at 10.7%, while for urban areas it stood at 18.5%.


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