AJMER, INDIA - 2016/11/18: People stand on long queue for exchange Rupees 500 and 1000 notes PM Narendra Modi ordered ban Rupees 500 and 1000 notes as NDA Government fights against black money and corruption at Bank branch. (Photo by Shaukat Ahmed/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

“It was like someone had picked my pocket,” says Prashuram, a 52-year-old casual laborer in the Indian capital New Delhi, recalling the evening of Nov. 8.
The day had begun well. The onset of north India’s traditional wedding season had brought a steady stream of work for Prashuram and his 33-year-old friend Hari. Migrants from nearby Indian states, the two spent the day working a series of odd jobs for a busy wedding caterer. For a dawn to dusk stint, they pocketed 500 rupees (about $7.5) each. That is typical in India’s vast informal economy, which employs more than 90% of the country’s workforce. Agreements here are verbal, the pay very often in cash and workers tend to have few, if any, guarantees or benefits. They also earn less than their compatriots in what is called the formal sector, where salaries are taxed, the work more regular and the average pay …