Institute for Social and Economic Change

Established in 1972 by Professor V K R V Rao, ISEC is an All-India Institute for Interdisciplinary Research and Training in the Social Sciences

Covid-19 and Cities: Is it merely short-term has it changed our cities forever?” – isec

Covid-19 and Cities: Is it merely short-term has it changed our cities forever?”


Institute for Social and Economic Change

Golden Jubilee International Conference on

Covid-19 and Cities: Is it merely short-term or has it
changed our cities forever?

on November 17-18th, 2022 at ISEC Bengaluru

Organised by

Centre for Research in Urban Affairs(CRUA),
Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bengaluru, India

Concept note

Covid-19 started off as a small local epidemic in early 2020 but became so widespread globally that the WHO declared it as a pandemic in March 2020. Covid-19 spreads fast with increased density of people, so understandably cities have been the most affected due to the crisis everywhere. While a lot of research is ongoing on various effects of the pandemic, what is less addressed is the fact whether the effects of Covid-19 are short run or long lasting. For instance, Covid-19 led to lockdowns in many cities of the world including Mumbai, Delhi, Manila, Shanghai, Sydney. In April 2020, a Barclays report estimated that “the absolute economic loss was likely the largest from the shutdown of Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Delhi and Mumbai, ranging from $1 billion-$1.7 billion per week.”

It is not just the economy of these cities that have been adversely impacted, but also livelihood and food security for many migrants in these cities. In some cities, migrants lost their jobs and were food starved. They had no means of transport, so they walked to their hometowns. In contrast, reports are that housing became more affordable during the pandemic in the central parts of cities as it reduced the need for accessing employment there. But Covid-19 may also have led to significant suburbanization and sprawl as a large number of working population moved to cheaper locations while still keeping their jobs in the central part of cities. There is some evidence that Covid-19 led to work from home (WFH) and work from anywhere (WFA) for the skilled labour force, but the unskilled were the ones to be the worst affected as their jobs (cooking, driving, domestic help, construction, and so on) cannot be done from home. Some research also finds that the pandemic pushed the urban poor into further poverty.

In other cities, Covid exposed the poor state of health care infrastructure there. City governments everywhere have had to battle challenges in order to take on additional responsibilities to cope with the pandemic—including testing, contact tracing, and monitoring. Due to the need for distancing, Covid-19 and the consequent lockdowns have also accelerated the growth of gig work, exemplified by food delivery, e-commerce, and even at-home beauty services.

Due to its far-reaching ramifications, this one-day Golden Jubilee Seminar of ISEC’s Centre for Research in Urban Affairs, will deliberate on the effect that Covid-19 has had on various aspects of the urban economy: urban poverty, informal sector and unskilled and skilled labour force, housing, and the gig economy. Below are the questions the one-day seminar proposes to answer:

  1. What is the effect of Covid-19 on the urban economy and job opportunities?
  2. How has Covid-19 impacted the urban workforce in general? Have the marginalized and vulnerable been unfavourably affected due to Covid-19?
  3. Are the effects of Covid-19 dependent on the robustness of healthcare infrastructure in cities?
  4. What are the effects of Covid-19 on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure in cities?
  5. Has the pandemic made housing more affordable in urban areas?
  6. Due to WFH and WFA, has the pandemic made the urban environment more sustainable?
  7. What are the ongoing policy responses of city governments to Covid and challenges?
  8. Are there any best practices from which city governments can learn regarding the management of future pandemics?
  9. What is the effect of Covid-19 on the gig economy and on-demand labour?
  10. Are these phenomena temporary or have they changed the landscape of our cities for good? We welcome original, unpublished

We welcome original, unpublished papers that address the above questions, or any other research questions not mentioned, as they relate to the effect of Covid on cities. We look forward to papers from all parts of the world (they may present their paper online). Only very high-quality papers will be chosen to be presented at the one-day seminar. We are in advanced negotiations with an international journal to publish selected papers.

Interested authors may send a 200-word abstract covering the thematic area, research objectives, methodology, findings, and the email address of the corresponding author to by September 3, 2022, 17:30 hours IST. Only authors of shortlisted abstracts will be notified for submission of their full papers by September 30th, 2022.

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