Originally posted in The Financial Express on 25 June 2020

About 13 per cent people have become unemployed in the country due to Covid-19 pandemic, according to a survey of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS).

The survey titled “Coping with COVID -19 and Individual Responses: Findings from a Large Online Survey” was conducted on 30,000 people covering all divisions and districts.

BIDS conducted the survey from May 5 to 29, 2020. It was unveiled on Wednesday at a virtual conversation titled “In the Shadow of COVID – Coping, Adjustments, Responses” organised by BIDS.

It noticed significant negative effects on employment, income and expenditures of people, especially those from low-income groups.

As per the report findings, 19.23 per cent of participants with income less than 5000 taka reported that their income reduced by 75 per cent, while 23.31 per cent participants with income between 5000-15000 taka reported an income reduction by 50 per cent relative to last month’s income.

Meanwhile, SME entrepreneurs in the rural areas are being hit the hardest due to the impact of Covid-19, as their revenue has dropped by 67 per cent in 2020 compared to the previous year.

However, the average reduction of revenue for all SMEs is 66 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019.

According to a survey titled “Covid-19 and SMEs: Understanding the Immediate Impact and Coping Strategies” annual revenue was reduced by 67 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019, which is 66 per cent for all SMEs sectors.

BIDS conducted the survey on 375 enterprises and 360 workers during April 26 to May 10, 2020. The report was also unveiled on Wednesday.

As per the survey findings of the surveyed entrepreneurs, 76 per cent goods produced by the entrepreneurs remain unsold and the value of unsold goods is Tk 0.675 million (Tk 6.75 lakh) each.

Economic activities were not completely shut down during the lockdown, while only 16 per cent of SMEs were open. However, it was 38.24 per cent in cases of handicrafts and rural SMEs were opened by 11.40 per cent, the report showed.

According to another survey, Bangladesh will have 16.4 million new poor in 2020 as the income of working class in urban and rural areas have fallen sharply due to the lockdown to stop the spread of Covid-19 pandemic.

A research paper titled “Poverty in the time of Corona: Short-term Effects of Economic Slowdown and Policy Responses through Social Protection” conducted by Binayak Sen, research director of BIDS estimated the figure on Wednesday.

Under a post-lockdown optimistic scenario, the country’s overall poverty to increase by 25.13per cent, where rural poverty will be 24.23 per cent and urban poverty will be 27.52 per cent.

“We ran several scenarios – representing successive severity of lockdown – under the “wealth plus labour status” approach. In a scenario where there is an 80% drop in income for labor class in urban areas and 10% drop in income for labor class in rural areas in the “hard lockdown” exercise, we would have 16.4 million new poor,” Binayak said in his presentation.

“If we consider a 25% higher poverty line, then an additional 16% to 20% of population would be in poverty in rural and urban areas. If we update our age-old poverty line accordingly, it will result in a much higher poverty where rural poverty would be 45%, and urban poverty would be 36%,” he added.

To sum up, we have two kinds of vulnerability in poverty-one relates to the risk of slippages of the near-poor into poverty, and the other pertains to the risk of slippages of the moderate poor into extreme poverty, said the economist.