COVID-19 pandemic hit earnings of 74pc families as average income fell by 74pc: study

  • News Desk,
    Published: 2020-06-02 02:55:52 BdST

Rows of parked rickshaws fill up a garage in Dhaka's Mirpur during a nationwide shutdown of public transport system that is set to end after more than two months amid the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: Muhammad Mostafigur Rahman

A study undertaken by BRAC, DataSense and Unnayan Shamannay has brought to light the havoc that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought on the people’s income in Bangladesh.

The joint study revealed that the average income of families was deflated by a colossal 74 percent due to the coronavirus crisis while 74 percent of the families were hit by this shrink in national economy.

The findings were presented by Ananya Raihan, chief executive officer of iSocial at a virtual press conference, titled “COVID-19 and National Budget 2021: Rethinking Strategy for BoP Population”, on Monday.

At present 100.22 million people face a high risk of economic and health vulnerabilities. The average family income loss between March and May hovers at around 74 percent. Over 1.4 million migrant workers have returned or are on their way back home due to job loss, Dr Ananya said, referring to the study.

The study findings show that among the people at high risk of economic and health vulnerabilities, 53.64 million are extreme poor (with $1.9 PPP income per day), including those pushed down to extreme poverty by the pandemic. While 47.33 million extreme poor face high economic risk, 36.33 million are at high health risk.

The primary survey found that the pandemic has variously affected the low-income people. As much as 34.8 percent of households interviewed have at least one member who lost their job.

People in the informal sector, including day-labourers, have suffered most. The manufacturing sector also experienced a major blow. For instance, the readymade garment sector experienced 84 percent reduction in exports year-on-year in April 2020.

More than 500 families of the 24th BCS cadre forum maintain physical distance while receiving aid at Kurigram Stadium amid the coronavirus crisis.

Between mid-March and April 7, 2020, 1,116 factories have been reported closed and 2.19 million workers lost their job.

It further revealed that the bottom-of-the-pyramid population is at higher risk of contracting the disease. In case of death of the earning member of the family, there is a high chance of starvation and malnutrition, especially among women and children.

The report added that earlier studies had suggested that due to lack of country-wide coordination and collaboration, food and cash support from the government could not adequately reach to the poor and extreme poor.

The COVID-19 is causing new kinds of economic, social and digital divides. As only 34 percent of households have access to smartphones and 54 percent have access to TV, children of the lowest economic rung mostly remain excluded from any form of education provided through digital channels.

More than one million migrants have returned or are returning home due to job loss. The migrants staying in the destination countries have become subject to a debt trap, social stigma and an uncertain future, the study found.

The COVID-19 imposed further difficulties on the lives of people with special needs and their families.

Chief guest at the event, former Bangladesh Bank governor Atiur Rahman said, "Medium, small and micro enterprises need help as 60% of them will be out of business. We can allocate BDT 20 thousand crore for this sector.

"The entire BDT 20 thousand crore needs to be refinanced by the Bangladesh Bank. Banks are not interested to give loans to MSMEs which they don’t know. Refinance line has to be increased so that risk sharing by bank is promoted."

"There is no risk of inflation yet. Economy is not that vibrant. Fuel prices are low because world market prices are low," he observed.

"Microfinance institutions can be given more refinancing facilities. Also banks should be given credit guarantee schemes so that they are encouraged to provide credit to MSMEs for which budget allocation is required," he further said.

Nazneen Ahmed said, "Fuel subsidy to transport operators can be provided so they will not require to increase fares."

Hossain Zillur Rahman in his chair's speech said, "Instead of making new lists it is best if existing lists can be used. Instead of BDT 100, BDT 500 per head may be allocated as stipend for 7.8 million primary students. That way we can ensure support reaches to the right people."

"The budget needs to be reflective, open to criticism, skilful in strategy," he stressed.