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Life in Lockdown: A survey of India’s Urban youth


Aastha Kaul and Terri Chapman, “Life in Lockdown: A Survey of India’s Urban Youth,”
Observer Research Foundation, July 2020

As India emerges from its nationwide lockdown, it finds itself in uncharted territory, with the pandemic fundamentally altering the way people work, communicate, and lead their daily lives. Perhaps the most affected cohort is the young population, who represent 65 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people.

This study aims to shed light on the perceptions and experiences of India’s urban youth of the lockdown. The report outlines findings from a survey of 4,599 youth in India between 18 and 32 years, living in the country’s largest cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, and Hyderabad. Data was collected through an online survey over a period of three weeks from April 8 to 27, 2020. Respondents were asked about the impacts of the lockdown on their schooling, work, their access to social protections, and their mental well-being, as well as their assessment of the government’s ability to respond to the crisis.

The sample was largely female (73 percent) and mostly employed (70 percent). Out of the 4,599 respondents, 71 percent are living with their families. Because of the nature of the survey being online, this study makes an assumption that they all have some degree of internet connectivity and access to a device.

As the lockdown closed all non-essential business, the impacts on the economy and labour market have been significant. While some of the school-going and working populations have been able to shift their work and studies online, many are being left out. To begin with, 320 million students have been affected by school closures across the country. Among this survey’s respondents, 31 percent report that their school has not made provisions for them to continue their studies during the lockdown. Among those who were previously employed before the lockdown, 25 percent say that they are sitting idle at home as their job does not allow them to work remotely. Even as the country begins to reopen, the impacts of the lockdown on learning and employment are likely to be long-lasting.

The pandemic itself and the measures taken to address it have created insecurity and uncertainty around the globe. The survey respondents report that the lockdown has led to emotional upheaval, with 65 percent of respondents saying that they have felt lonely or very lonely during the lockdown. Indeed, the impact on their mental health has been stark: 37 percent of the respondents feel that the lockdown has severely impacted their mental wellbeing. Further, as the respondents look to the future, 43 percent of them worry that they will no longer be able to lead a normal life after the lockdown.

The survey finds that few youth have basic social protections. Just 31 percent of the respondents who are employed, report having some sort of health insurance. At the same time, a majority of the respondents (66 percent) express a high degree of confidence that they would have

adequate access to healthcare if they needed it. Combined with the fact that most youth respondents (71 percent) are living with their families, this linkage demonstrates the state of social insurance in India, where the onus of protection falls on the family.

Respondents indicated a high level of trust in the government’s ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and despite the perceived hardships from the lockdown, an overwhelming majority (96 percent) are of the view that it was necessary. Furthermore, despite non-government news sources being the biggest source of pandemic- related information for the majority of respondents (80 percent), government messaging has prevailed, as 72 percent of respondents report that the state COVID-19 helpline would be their first tool if a household member starts exhibiting symptoms.

These findings do not fully represent the experiences of India’s urban youth. What this report attempts to do is to uncover findings that may implicate India’s youth in the coming years. The report seeks to offer directions for further research on the socio-economic impacts of the lockdown on the world’s largest young population.

Read the full report here.

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Aastha Kaul

Aastha Kaul

Aastha Kaul was a Assistant Manager (Projects) and Executive Assistant to the President at ORF. Her work focuses on gender and human rights particularly in ...

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Terri Chapman

Terri Chapman

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