There has never been a dearth of forecasting by experts and non-experts alike on the possible consequences of the pandemic on life and livelihood of the people in general and on the different sectors of society and the economy in particular.
But despite all the predictions, the level of preparedness was nothing to write home about. What was to happen happened. But that should not be a cause for worry. Loss of face? Well, then all the developed nations were in a similar predicament when the virus finally struck.
From the Chinese and Western experiences it was already clear that the harm that the pandemic does to public health is enormous. But then the damage it causes to the economy is worse! It is, to be fair, colossal.
So, when the Covid-19 did at last visit upon us, the concern was-- what its long and short term impacts would likely be! How are we going to cope once the containment measures are applied to tame the pandemic?
The short term consequences were immediately visible. People in the lowest income bracket were seen leaving the cities in large numbers. Since the lives of these people depended on their daily earnings and the lockdowns took away their work opportunities, it was now a question of their survival. The city did turn its back on them.
These people belong to the economic category we call the informal sector. It is actually the biggest segment of the economy employing around 85 per cent of the country's workforce. The first target of the pandemic-control action has basically been these people.
A study by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) has shown that the pandemic has cost 13 per cent of the people their jobs.
The predominantly daily earning self-employed workers and those doing contractual jobs in restaurants, shopping malls, small workshops or as home-helps are among the less educated or the uneducated and unskilled bulk of the workforce. They constitute the first wave of the pandemic-induced shutdown victims. But there are also the educated youths self-employed as private tutors, photographers, musicians, makeup artists, wedding planners and such others. They became unemployed overnight. Also, some educated youths earning good money from their service sector jobs such as at travel agencies, tour companies, event management businesses, at hotels as receptionist and so on also lost their jobs.
The uneducated and unskilled majority of the jobless do not have much opportunity to find an alternative way of doing their old jobs.
But some of the latter group of educated youths who thus lost their jobs to the pandemic, reportedly, have switched to online mode to do tutoring, teaching or composing music and the like.
But despite going digital, their earnings decreased sharply. In some cases it is 20 per cent of what they earned before, say reports.
A large section of these youths has even changed profession. Many got recruited by superstore outlets as shop assistants. Others are doing odd jobs such as selling clothes, fruits, facemasks, hand-sanitisers and such other things.
Around 24.8 per cent of Bangladesh's entire youth workforce risk getting into serious uncertainties in this calendar year, a joint ILO/ ADB study found.
In the formal sector, the businesses in general are operating below their capacity. There, too, uncertainties reign as their employees face job as well as salary cuts.
Strangely, the pandemic has proved to be a boon for the online business. Online shopping and home delivery service are gaining popularity. Health care start-ups are also in the race with their telemedicine. This sector deserves massive government support for it to grow into an engine of youth employment.