After the government lifted lockdown to reopen the economy, 15.64 percent of Dhaka residents left for their village homes as they could not afford to live in the city, according to a survey.
It found that earnings of 42 percent of people had dropped in June-July compared to normal times.
The joint survey was conducted by the Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), and the Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC). The findings were presented at a virtual webinar on Tuesday.
Researchers said people had left Dhaka as they were unable to meet various expenses, such as rent, medical and transportation, because of the decline in their earnings.
The BIGD and the PPRC first conducted a survey on the country's socioeconomic situation in April when the lockdown was in force. The latest survey reflects the situation after the lockdown was lifted.
The survey in which 7,638 families participated was carried out from June 20 to July 2. Of the participants, more than 55 percent were urban families, over 43 percent were rural households, and 1.22 percent were families living in Chattogram Hill Tracts.
Some 12,000 families were contacted for the survey.
Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, executive chairman of the PPRC, unveiled the survey results and said although economic activities had resumed, this could be termed a fragile recovery.
He said the assistance provided to the poor under the social safety net was kind of a token assistance.
"We talked about the emergence of a new poor group in April. The poverty situation of only 1 percent of them had improved after resumption of economic activities," Zillur noted.
The survey revealed that 6 percent of the urban poor left for villages amid the pandemic in April. The figure jumped to 13.3 percent in June. The number of people leaving Dhaka stood at 15.64 percent in July.
Between February and June, earnings of the urban poor fell by 43 percent, while it decreased by 41 percent for rural people and 25 percent for Chattogram Hill Tracts residents.
Seventeen percent of people who were able to work in February became jobless in June. Housemaids had been hit the hardest, with 54.19 percent of them losing jobs, followed by both skilled and unskilled workers.
But the rate of job losses was relatively low among factory and agricultural workers, with a little more than 10 percent losing work in both professions.
In terms of decline in income in addition to job losses, rickshaw-pullers suffered the most. Their earnings dropped by 54 percent while it was 50 percent for small business owners.
As for unskilled workers and transport staff, their income decreased by 48 percent.
Agricultural workers saw their earnings go down by 39 percent even though the government claimed this sector was active amid the pandemic.
Factory workers' earnings fell by 16.24 percent, the lowest among all groups.
The survey drew comparative pictures of poverty from three periods – the pre-pandemic time, when the lockdown was in force, and the post-lockdown period. Food cost in cities in April was Tk44, down from Tk60 in February. In June, the amount rose negligibly, reaching Tk45.
But the situation did not improve in villages even after the lockdown was withdrawn. In rural areas, food cost was Tk52 in February, which fell to Tk41 in April and to Tk37 in June.
Earnings of the urban poor were more than Tk108 in February, which plummeted to Tk26 in April before rising to Tk67 in June.
In rural areas, people's income was Tk96 in February. This significantly dropped to Tk37 in April and reached a little more than Tk53 in June.
Zillur, also a former adviser to a caretaker government, said the government's bailout packages were effective to some extent in the institutional sector but over 80 percent of the country's labour force are employed in the non-institutional sector. "That remains in a completely fragile state."
A new class of poor people emerged during the pandemic. Their proportion was 22.8 percent in April but when the economy re-opened in June, the figure decreased a little, reaching 21.7 percent.
The survey reflects opinions of four types of respondents – the extreme poor, the medium poor, the new poor who remain vulnerable, and the new poor.
BIGD Executive Director Imran Matin talked about how these four groups had responded to the withdrawal of lockdown.
"Among all groups, 40-45 percent think there was no way but to lift lockdown. Almost 30 percent considered this a good decision. 10 percent said lockdown could have been withdrawn after a few more days and the rest did not make any comment," he said.
According to the survey, almost 16 percent of distressed people in urban areas received the government's cash assistance. The proportion was 3.5 percent in villages and around 10 percent in Chattogram Hill Tracts.
The survey also said each household's expense reached Tk1,767.68. If this amount was given to all the poor people, those living in cities would have received Tk272 and the ones in villages would have got Tk61.