In the wake of the unprecedented spread of Covid-19, the ILO recently made an assessment of economic and labour market crises costs around the world. Bangladeshi economists and entrepreneurs also fear that the outbreak of the deadly disease could have a widespread impact on the job market for Bangladeshis.
The country's export-oriented industries mostly depend on the markets of the European Union, the US and Canada. The labour market, tourism, and some informal sectors may face job cuts if corona lingers, say industry insiders.
Dr Ahsan H Mansur, economist and executive director of Policy Research Institute (PRI), believes that garments and other exports from Bangladesh to the EU could fall dramatically. "The EU alone accounts for 62 percent of Bangladesh's exports. Exports to Bangladesh's single largest destination, the US, may sink as well."
"Other export items, such as leather and footwear, jute and jute goods, frozen food, home textiles, light engineering, plastic products and electronic goods may also be hit.
"Garments industry workers may face massive job cuts due to a decline in orders from abroad. Many other sectors may meet the same fate."
Around 25 million people working in different sectors may lose their jobs worldwide due to the economic and labour crisis created by the coronavirus outbreak, notes the ILO assessment.
Underemployment could also increase on a large scale with the economic consequences of the virus outbreak translating into reductions in working hours and wages.
The ILO warns that certain groups, including people in less protected and low-paid jobs, particularly youth and older workers, women, and migrants, will be disproportionately affected by the jobs crisis.
Guy Ryder, Director General of the ILO, said, "This is no longer only a global health crisis. It is also a major labour market and economic crisis that is having a huge impact on people."
Abdus Salam Murshedy, President of Exporters Association of Bangladesh, said: "There is a genuine concern of cancellation of work orders from buyers. But the condition in the importing countries may get better."
According to Tour Operators Association of Bangladesh (Toab), around five lakh people work full-time in the tourism and hospitality sector of the country. "Twenty to thirty percent of them may lose jobs because of coronavirus," said Shiblul Azam Quoreshi, first vice president of Toab.
"Except for the regular employees of the sector, about 13 lakh people also work here part-time. They have already lost their jobs."
On Thursday, all tourist places across Bangladesh, including Cox's Bazar, Sundarbans, Sylhet, Rangmati, Sreemangal, and Bandarban were closed off to visitors as a measure against the spread of coronavirus.
Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies Secretary General Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, said the situation might rock the country's labour market if the present situation continued.
"At least 1.5 lakh people are waiting to go abroad. Among them, 50 percent came home on leave. They are stuck here because of flight cancellations and other regulatory issues. A huge number of expatriate Bangladeshis are now facing the risk of losing their overseas jobs."
However, commentators on the situation opine that policymakers should take supportive measures like employee retention, extending social protection, financial, and tax relief as a precautionary measure.
According to the ILO assessment, an internationally coordinated policy response, as happened in the global financial crisis of 2008-09, can significantly lower the impact on global unemployment. The 2008-09 global financial crisis increased global unemployment by 22 million.