Only 20pc of unemployed households got govt support
Only one out of five people who lost jobs for the pandemic-induced lockdowns, received some form of government support, while more than half of households were compelled to borrow to withstand the crisis, a new study found.
Relatives and friends mainly stood by the victims of income and job losses as 46 per cent of them depended on unconditional support from their kith and kin.
Yet amid the crisis, 5.4 per cent of the families were forced to sell assets, said a study by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) released yesterday.
It was carried out between late January and early February this year among 2,600 households who are reliant on the incomes from garment workers, returnee migrants, micro, small and medium enterprises, and domestic workers.
"The decline in income has pushed a significant number of people into lower-income groups, indicating a higher poverty incidence," said Prof Mustafizur Rahman, a distinguished fellow of the CPD, while presenting the study report at a two-day conference on coping experience and policy choices on the Bangladesh emerging from the pandemic.
The Citizen's Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh and the CPD jointly organised the event at the Brac Centre Inn Dhaka.
The health and economic crisis forced more than 60 per cent of people in the informal sector out of jobs, and they were without work for 95 days on average.
A large section of unemployed people turned to agriculture even though the farm jobs offered lower income, according to the study.
Rahman said the first impact of any disaster falls on the labour market. "We have seen severe impact of the pandemic on labour market."
"Many families had to cut food expenditure to cope with the crisis. Hidden unemployment has deepened."
Although most of the households returned to jobs as economic activities revived following the easing of the pandemic, about 45 per cent had lower incomes compared to pre-crisis levels.
Rahman said more than 40 per cent of the employed population reported that their employment situation was worse than the pre-pandemic period. About 86 per cent of individuals said they were not earning enough to meet their daily necessities.
"So, there is an urgent need to enhance cash transfers to the marginalised and affected households."
"In view of the immediate challenges, there is an urgent need to withstand the immediate loss of income and reduced expenditure. Higher consumption expenditure will also help boost domestic demand and create opportunities for jobs."
The expert called for higher coverage and budgetary allocation for social safety net programmes in the form of cash transfer.
Investment in labour-intensive rural road and infrastructure would be beneficial to stimulate the rural economy, said Rahman, suggesting a second stimulus package to support the lower-income groups to help them recover.
Asif Ibrahim, a former president of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said many families became extreme poor because of the income and job losses.
"The government needs to provide additional incentive to the labour-intensive sectors and resume labour-intensive infrastructure projects. It is time to make reforms and take action plans that could not be taken because of the pandemic for inclusive development of the country."
Sormindo Nilormi, a professor of the economics department at the Jahangirnagar University, suggested including women in repair and maintenance of embankments constructed by Bangladesh Water Development Board following the model of the Local Government Engineering Department.