77% households face loss of monthly income: Study
Published : Thursday, 24 June, 2021 at 11:09 PM Count : 292
The economic disruptions caused by Covid-19 left many people jobless, especially those belonging to low-income communities and involved in the informal economy. Between April and October last year, around 77% of the households in Bangladesh saw a decrease in their average monthly income and around 34% had at least one member who lost jobs or earning capacity.
To cope with the situation these families used up their savings and took loans, which has led to 62% decrease in the average monthly savings of these households, while 31% increase in debt.
The data mentioned above are part of the findings of a joint research by the Center on International Cooperation at New York University, BRAC and UN WOMEN Bangladesh on the changes in demographic, economic and social environments in the secondary towns, peri-urban (upazila) and rural areas of Bangladesh brought on by the rise in reverse migration during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The research findings were unveiled at a virtual international dialogue titled, “Demographic and socio-economic changes induced by the Covid-19 pandemic: Challenges of new circumstances” on Wednesday. A panel of distinguished experts, academics, policymakers and development professionals shared their insights at the dialogue, while focusing on the policy priorities identified by the study findings and suggested opportunities to address challenges moving forward.
Leah Zamore, humanitarian crises program lead at the Center on International Cooperation of New York University moderated the dialogue. KAM Morshed, senior director of BRAC, presented the research findings with Shoko Ishikawa, country representative, UN Women Bangladesh, Dr. Daniel Naujoks, interim director, International Organization and UN Studies Specialization at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, and Dr. Adam Schwartz, director of health for BRAC USA, participating as panelists in the discussion session.
The study was informed by both qualitative and quantitative methods and relied on a survey of 6,370 households conducted in 10-25 December 2020. The survey was based on a reference period of April-October 2020. The study calls attention to the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on both the internal and international migration, compelling people and families to return to their places of origin.
Around 77% of both the internal and international returnee migrants in Bangladesh were struggling to find a job during the survey period. Among these households, 61% had at least one member who lost a job or earning opportunity during the pandemic.
The study also found that 25% of returnee migrant households expressed concern about repaying their outstanding migration loans which amount to Tk 76,000 (around $900 USD) on average and a maximum of Tk 700,000 (around $8,300 USD). Around 44% of the respondents reported they could not find any income-generating work. Some of them are managing expenses by withdrawing from savings or renting out their assets.
Surveyed households reported a 58% decrease in average monthly remittances received during the pandemic.
Furthermore, returnee migrant families will increase the pressure on the already resource-constrained local sectors, education and health in particular. Of the returnee population, 4.57% are school-age children (5-16 years), who, if unable to get back to their previous educational institutions, will eventually aggravate pressure on the local ones. Resource constraint will worsen in the health sector too, as 17.91% of both the external and internal returnee population are aged over 40 years (13.35% above 40 years and 4.56% above 50 years). These people have a lower chance of re-migration, bringing significant implications for the health services, both in terms of finance and capacity, and especially in the area of non-communicable diseases.
The study also finds key gender-based differences in returnee experience. Female returnee migrants, mostly internal ones, are dealing with heightened burden during the pandemic. Survey respondents identified a number of key challenges, such as, inability to engage in productive or income-generating work (74%), problems in moving freely in the streets and marketplaces (26.8%), problems in adjusting with the local culture, absence of utility services (20%), an increased burden of household chores, and problems in child-rearing and ensuring their education (18%).
The findings also suggest a higher incidence of child marriage in Bangladesh during the pandemic. Of the marriages that occurred during the survey period, more than three-fourths (77%) of the brides were below 18 years and 61% were below 16 years at the time of their marriage.
The study suggests that in 2020 in Bangladesh, the expected crude birth rate in the rural areas was 19.5 per thousand population, and in the households with returnee migrants it was 33.4 per thousand population. Both these rates are higher than the 2018 national crude birth rate of 18.2 per thousand population. Additionally, the average family size was found to be 4.7, which is higher than the pre-pandemic national average of 4.06 (Household income and expenditure survey - HIES 2016).