As the pandemic struck Bangladesh in March, gloomy predictions were being made about its possible negative impacts on the economy and the employment situation. The situation was no doubt dicey, especially between March and July when shutdowns to combat the pandemic were in force. A countrywide online survey done by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) in May showed that the country’s13 per cent people mainly in the low-income bracket had lost their jobs. In particular, rural Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), the main source of jobs, were the hardest hit as they lost 67 per cent of their revenue compared to that of 2019. It was being feared that, as another BIDS projection went, the overall poverty in the country might increase by 23.13 per cent thereby creating 16.4 million new poor. But things did not turn out exactly the way the experts would have us believe.
Now, the findings of a nationwide sample survey on household income and expenditure conducted in September by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) show that the unemployment rate, which was 22.39 per cent in July, has come down to as low as 4.0 per cent in September. The BBS data, as they stand, are indicative of an economy that is picking up fast. Obviously, some economists expressed their reservations about the BBS data showing such sudden turnaround in the employment situation within a span of two months.
At any rate, given the economy’s other bafflingly positive trends registered in the past months provide reasons to give credence to the present BBS data. Admittedly, the BBS survey, given its rather small sample size is hardly comprehensive. But considering the number of respondents (over 2,000) interviewed across the country, the survey by all accounts was representative enough. In fact, according to experts, a sample of over 900 interviewees can make a survey national. However, one could well argue against the BBS result pointing to some apparently weaker aspects of the economy. These include poor credit growth, reduced raw material and capital machinery import, less than full-steam operation by business and industry and the adverse impact of floods on agriculture. Undeniably, these are strong points to note when assessing the overall state of an economy. That notwithstanding, one is also to consider the impacts of the massive government intervention in the economy to create jobs in the public sector. So, there is nothing to be surprised if the government intervention in the economy starts producing results.
Notably, the economy has been recovering fast. This is a fact well-recognised by experts both at home and abroad. That is so despite some obvious weak spots in the economy. So, it may not well be a mystery that the job market, which is indicative of the overall health of the economy, should also demonstrate it. However, there is little room for complacency even if the BBS data do reflect the reality in some positive light. That is because of the uncertainties swirling around the pandemic which is yet to taper off. Anyway, the nation should be able to preserve whatever could be achieved despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic’s first wave and build upon it.