Nearly seventy percent of people in Barguna, Kurigram, Rajshahi and Satkhira faced wage reduction in November last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, while a little over 81 percent of self-employed people faced reduction in profits, revealed a recent survey by South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (Sanem) and ActionAid.
The organisations interviewed 1,541 people in the districts of Kurigram, Satkhira, Rajshahi, and Barguna. The respondent households' major sources of income were agriculture, industry, service etc.
Almost one-third of households claimed that their business had to be closed either permanently or temporarily since March 2020.
Several reasons were identified behind the business closures such as the economic shutdown, falling demand for goods, reductions in price, increased cost of production, Covid-19 related additional costs and so on.
The findings were shared yesterday at a webinar titled "Pandemic and the Youth in Bangladesh: Findings from Four Selected Districts," jointly organised by Sanem and ActionAid Bangladesh.
The survey explores the current state of household incomes and earning profile of the sample, their status of education, healthcare, gender-based violence, and some key youth-specific areas such as youth engagement in civic, climate and political actions, amongst others.
According to the survey, only 10 percent of people received benefits from the new programmes initiated to tackle pandemic-induced shocks, and of them, 68.8 percent were new recipients of such aid.
Since the start of the pandemic, online classes have been most frequent in Rajshahi (37.8 percent) and least frequent in Kurigram (16 percent).
Only 13.1 percent male students and 11.8 percent female students reported attending online classes frequently, while 49.9 percent male students and 56 percent female students reported that they had never attended any online class.
The digital devices required to participate in online education was absolutely unavailable for 70.35 percent of students in Kurigram, followed by 60.24 percent in Satkhira, 54.16 percent in Barguna and 43.87 percent in Rajshahi.
Device unavailability, poor internet connection, high price of mobile data, lack of mental preparation and inaccessibility of technology were identified as major reasons for not attending online classes.
Mental health services were also ignored during the pandemic, as 63.83 percent of respondents said such services were not available from local healthcare providers.
Overall 87.89 percent of 1,270 women aged between 15-35 said they faced some form of violence in the pandemic, while the spike was highest in Barguna (97.34 percent).
Forty percent of women in Kurigram said they faced in the past 12 months, while 55.06 percent said they faced both physical and sexual violence.
Only 4.96 percent of women took legal action after experiencing any type of violence, and the reasons behind that are -- lack of awareness on where to lodge complaints, shame, fear of household members, financial constraints and much more.
In regard to youth civic engagement, the survey revealed that only 7.62 percent youth from the surveyed regions participated in local decision making.
However, this rate was much higher for males compared to women. Only 2.59 percent women participated in local decision making compared to 10.85 percent men.
Dr Mohammad Abu Eusuf, professor at Dhaka University's department of development studies expressed his concern about the unavailability of a special package designed for the education sector in Covid-19.
"There are so many schools that are not operated by the government, [they] could not pay the salary of teachers as they didn't get tuition fees from students," he said at the panel discussion.
Dr Sanzida Akhter, associate professor and chairman at DU's department of women and gender studies said that it's high time to incorporate mental health and sexual and reproductive health services at local health centres.
ActionAid Bangladesh Country Director Farah Kabir chaired the event.
Deeba Farah Haque, chief of party, Gender Responsive Education and Skills Programme in Chittagong Hill Tracts, BRAC; Dr Selim Raihan, professor of economics at DU also executive director of Sanem spoke at the event moderated by Dr Sayema Haque Bidisha, economics professor at DU also research director of Sanem.