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Economic Fallout From Covid Deepens: World Bank Survey

Source: Vientiane Times

The continuing Covid-19 pandemic has deepened the economic fallout in Laos over the second quarter of this year as employment fell off sharply and households and businesses suffered declining income and revenue, according to a World Bank survey.

The latest round of the World Bank’s Rapid Monitoring Phone Survey, conducted in April-May this year among 2,000 randomly selected households, shows that 51 percent of survey respondents reported being without work or having had to stop working in April-May 2021, up from 17 percent in February-March 2021.

In the services sector, more than half of workers in the wholesale and retail trade and other services had to stop working or switch jobs during the lockdown, according to the survey.

By May 2021, 5.5 percent of businesses had permanently closed, while 33 percent were temporarily closed. Among businesses that remained in operation, 65 percent experienced a fall in revenue from pre-lockdown levels.

Also in May, around 43 percent of households experienced a decline in household income relative to before lockdown, leading respondents to express growing concern about food insecurity for people in their communities.

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This was the third round of the Covid-19 Rapid Monitoring Phone Surveys of Households in Laos. The surveys are aimed at monitoring the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.

The results help provide insights into the effects of the pandemic on household well-being, and feed into policy advice and analytical studies such as the latest edition of the Lao Economic Monitor.

The first round of the Lao phone surveys was conducted in June to July 2020, when the country had just exited the initial nationwide lockdown, and the second round ran from February to March 2021, one year into the pandemic.

Laos is struggling to contain the spread of Covid-19. The number of infections has jumped from fewer than 50 in early April to more than 15,600 cases to date.

Several provinces have ordered lockdowns in a bid to contain the outbreak.

Conversely, prolonged lockdowns and continuing border closures are not only disrupting business activities and hindering economic recovery, but also make it more difficult for vulnerable households to stay out of poverty.

Falling income and job losses put many more households at risk of falling into poverty amid rising inflation and the mounting cost of living in Laos.

According to the World Bank’s Lao Economic Monitor, 43 percent of hospitality and transport workers who lost their jobs early in the pandemic remained without work in March 2021.

The Bank’s report stated that the share of employed women halved from 78 percent before the lockdown to 39 percent during the lockdown period, as more women are employed in the hardest-hit sectors. Men faced a smaller decline, from 87 percent to 55 percent.

The World Bank is coordinating a US$33 million Covid-19 response project in Laos, supported by various development partners under the guidance of the Ministry of Health.