Some 70% of people at the district level have reported a reduction in their incomes because of the pandemic and 39.5% of them have had to borrow from others to make ends meet, according to the latest survey.
Incomes of 70% wage earners and salaried people in the four surveyed districts – Kurigram, Satkhira, Rajshahi and Barguna – decreased in November 2020 over the same month a year ago, said Mahtab Uddin, a teacher of economics at Dhaka University and a research fellow at the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (Sanem)
Only 2% witnessed an income hike that month, he said while presenting the survey results at a webinar on Tuesday.
Sanem and ActionAid Bangladesh jointly conducted the survey titled "Pandemic and Youth in Bangladesh: Survey Findings from Selected Districts" on 13-27 December last year, with the participation of people aged 15-35 in the four districts.
Directly interviewing 1,541 families in these districts, views of the young people were sought on their health, education, employment and social security.
Mahtab Uddin said self-employed people also registered an 82% fall in their profits during the time, while only 3% saw a rise in their profits. Some 31% of the self-employed people had to shut their businesses temporarily or permanently during the Covid-19 shutdown period.
On the other hand, 4.52% changed their jobs because of low pays, salary cuts and job losses.
Sanem's Executive Director Prof Dr Selim Raihan thinks a part of these people whose incomes and profits have gone down have fallen into poverty.
He said the government should take special measures for the newly poor. The social safety net needs to be expanded further. An innovative social protection programme must be taken to check the dropouts of students. Small and medium entrepreneurs should get priority too.
In addition to declining incomes at the individual level, the survey also found that a large number of villagers remained out of health services.
Some 63.83% of families did not receive services for mental health at local healthcare centres and 49.15% of women aged 15-35 were victims of sexual and gender-based violence. Of them, 85% were in rural areas, 15% in urban areas and 81% of them were married.
Dr Sanzida Akhter, chairperson of the Department of Women and Gender Studies at Dhaka University, said, "Covid-19 has shown us that we now have to pay attention to mental health. We have to take this service to local health centres."
According to the survey, a large number of rural students have been deprived of educational opportunities as classes have gone online following the closure of schools and colleges.
A total of 57.73% of students could not attend online classes due to a lack of smartphones and computers and internet facilities. Only 12.11% have attended regular classes online while 15.47% have taken classes occasionally.
Some 3.91% of students in the four surveyed districts have expressed their views that they will not return to regular studies or there is uncertainty in this regard after educational institutions reopen.
Dr Sayema Haque Bidisha, research director at Sanem, said "Many students could not take online classes in villages due to a lack of internet connection and necessary devices. This is also a kind of inequality. We have to take special measures for these students."
Mohammad Abu Eusuf, a professor at the Development Studies Department of Dhaka University, said the government has announced a number of stimulus packages but no education-centric stimulus package. An education-centric stimulus package was required as many young people are now engaged in teaching."
The study found that 79.24% of households faced problems due to rising prices of daily essentials, while 42.07 households suffered from the income erosion of their earners. Besides, 20% of families have plunged into financial crises because of flooding, river erosion and landslides.
ActionAid Bangladesh Country Director Farah Kabir said, "The government has given many stimulus packages but has not thought of a separate incentive package for the youth. Now, we have to take initiatives for them. Attention should be given to train them up."