A study by the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (Sanem), a nonprofit research organisation, has found that about 8.7 million youths will plunge into poverty in Bangladesh due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The findings were presented at a webinar, titled "Youth Perspective on Covid-19 Crisis in Bangladesh: Response through National Budget and Planning", jointly organised by Sanem and ActionAid Bangladesh through a videoconference on Saturday.
Dr Selim Raihan, executive director of Sanem, said, "Bangladesh has been compelled to impose a lockdown, resulting in people staying at home and a restraint on economic activities. The slowing down of economic activities is expected to have a disastrous impact on the poverty level of the country."
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), 20.5 percent of the population, or around 34 million people, are poor.
Using the latest Household Income and Expenditure Survey data of the BBS, Sanem researchers ran simulations, which revealed that with a negative income shock of 25 percent, the overall poverty rate will be 40.9 percent, meaning that another 20.4 percent of the population or 33 million people will plunge into poverty.
Initially, the findings were published on May 1.
"We published this on May 1 in our assessment on poverty impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic in Bangladesh. Using the same model, the research also reveals that about 8.7 million youths will fall into poverty," said Dr Raihan.
The research mentioned that the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the youth of Bangladesh will have multiple dimensions, such as health, education, employment, income, poverty and domestic violence.
It said the youths are highly vulnerable to the novel coronavirus.
Approximately 26 percent of the country's total number of Covid-19 patients is in the age bracket of 21-30 years.
Besides, the closure of educational institutions is affecting approximately 37 million students across the country and if it lasts for a longer period it will engender far-reaching economic and societal consequences.
While the opportunity for skills development is already narrow for the youth of the country, the pandemic has turned the whole situation all the more difficult.
It is apprehended that the pandemic will increase the number of educated unemployed people.
The current massive economic disruption is hurting the 20 million youth labour force of Bangladesh.
The Covid-19 crisis is affecting the employment of youths adversely as the nation remains in a closure of firms and reduced production.
Due to this epidemic, many youths might get unemployed or underemployed.
Additionally, with a stay-at-home order in place, there are fears of a possible rise in violence against women and girls at home.
The findings mentioned that the stimulus package, announced by the government, neither provides any direct allocation nor gives any specific direction for the youths of the country.
Nevertheless, allocations and policy guidelines might benefit the youths.
The research recommends a provision of health coverage and engaging most vulnerable youth groups in the healthcare packages, education requiring robust social protection expansions, extending the social safety net to include unemployed youths, creating employment retention schemes, tax relief or interest-free loans to SMEs operated by youths, motivating and engaging youths in skill development programmes.
Dr Selim Raihansaid, "57 percent of the annual development programme in 2019-20 was not youth development-oriented."
"The government should make a two-year plan to face the challenges of the post-Covid-19 period or the first two years of 8th five-year plan can be reformed according to the impacts of Covid-19."
Farah Kabir, country director of ActionAid, said that the pandemic is a call to action for social justice, and rather than returning to the pre-pandemic situation where socio-economic exploitation was prevalent, society must strive for a better socio-economic reality.
Dr Sayema Haque Bidisha, research director at Sanem and economics professor at the University of Dhaka, Mahtab Uddin, lecturer at the same department, and Nazmul Ahsan, Manager-Young People, ActionAid Bangladesh, were among the panelists.