The Financial Express
Swasti Lankabangla Swasti Lankabangla

Self-employed people worst victims of Covid pandemic

| Updated: September 05, 2020 09:57:36

Illustrative photo Illustrative photo

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to switch of profession in a number of sectors, forcing the unemployed workforces to opt for alternative ways of earning their living.

The self-employed people are the worst sufferers of the crisis, and have mainly chosen tech-based work in absence of their regular jobs.

Travel agents, musicians, kindergarten teachers, private tutors, beauticians, makeup artists, wedding planners and photographers are some of the professionals struggling hard this time.

Some are, however, providing services online while many others had to switch their professions to less-rewarding or inferior quality of jobs.

They claimed that their earnings, in some cases - even in technology-based innovative work, have dropped by around 80 per cent in the alternative jobs.

The worst cases are being faced mainly by those who were working in the informal sector and they are bearing the brunt in this period due to having neither any access to the government's stimulus package nor they could go door-to-door to seek help.

Talking to the FE, several students, who used to bear their educational and other expenses through private tuition, said they are now doing online delivery job or some other works to earn their living as their families are unable to bear the expenses.

Sabbir Hassan Nasir, Executive Director of ACI Logistics, the operator of Shwapno superstore, said many of the young workforces are unemployed who are looking for job.

"We have recruited nearly 3,200 people for our outlets across the country since March this year which is 40 per cent higher than that of the corresponding period of last year," he said.

During this pandemic, online shopping and home delivery have increased significantly, creating additional demand for staffs in the superstores.

However, Mr Nasir said that most of the people came with no skill and the human resource department has to carry out additional pressure to train them up.

"We have found some travel agents' employees, musicians and receptionists of hotels are seeking job in superstores as they are now jobless," he added.

He said some industries will grow due to this pandemic and some others will face difficulties to survive, but the job seekers should keep in mind that they have to come out of traditional job ideas.

However, the unskilled people with poor educational background are facing difficulties to find job and many had to leave for villages.

Musicians, wedding planners and photographers are witnessing gloomy days as all types of social gatherings almost stopped since March last.

Wahidur Rahman Masum, a musician, said that he is now doing web-based rhythm programming, guitar composing and home studio-based work due to absence of regular music programmes.

Currently, the seasoned musicians are focusing on tech-based work like composition of songs, video editing etc. to earn their living, he said.

Akkash Mahmood, former president of Bangladesh Photographic Association, said a number of photographers opted for alternative sources of earning to survive.

"Some have engaged in selling protective gear such as masks, hand sanitizers and oximeters while some have chosen online home delivery of different products including seasonal fruits, honey, ghee, etc." he said.

Four photo studios in Gulshan area are seen selling the protective equipment by procuring those from Mitford, he added.

Mahmud Hossain Khan, Managing Director of Flight Centre Ltd., one of the leading corporate travel agents, said his annual turnover, which was around Tk 700 million, came down to zero in this situation.

"It is difficult to switch to other businesses immediately for the large ventures, but I'll have to think about it if such situation continues until December," he said.

Mamun Reza, a freelance private teacher, said private tutors have switched to online classes through Skype or other social media.

He, however, said that income of almost all of the private tutors dropped significantly. Although they opted for online classes, their number of students declined, he added.

He said the number of dropped out students has increased as many people migrated to villages after they lost job or other income generating sources in this COVID situation.

MH Badal, secretary general of Bangladesh Kindergarten School Owners' Association, said many of the schools faced closure while others are struggling hard to survive.

"I have found one teacher selling cloths (lungi) in another area to earn his living in absence of regular source of his earning," he said.

Kindergarten schools are housed in rented buildings in the city and run with the fees of students, he said, stressing the need for government's support for them.

However, economists said that such informal sources of earnings are i temporary solutions of a tiny portion of unemployed people while a vast majority remained unemployed.

Dr Zahid Hussain, former lead economist of the World Bank, said that although there is no study on the coping mechanism, more jobs could be generated through dynamism in health sector or technology-based sector.

He said such informal alternative is not a solution, rather formal sector entrepreneurship could be encouraged through removing the hurdles.

Many are choosing petty jobs as there are no social security measures for them, he added.

According to a study of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), some 13 per cent people lost jobs due to the pandemic.

According to a joint report of International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Asian Development Bank (ADB), some 1.11 million to 1.67 million youths, aged between 15 and 24 years, are vulnerable to losing jobs in 2020.

The report estimated that Bangladesh's youth unemployment rate may see a twofold rise to 24.8 per cent in 2020. The rate was 11.9 per cent in 2019.


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