Corona pandemic: Day labourers worst sufferers

Rajib Kanti Roy

18th June, 2021 10:49:02 PM printer

Corona pandemic: Day labourers worst sufferers

Agonising wait for work: With a fall in the number of employers visiting the spot following a spike in coronavirus infections, day labourers are waiting for work in the capital’s Jatrabari area. The photo was taken on Friday. # Reaz Ahmed Sumon

As soon as the sun rises, around one hundred day labourers gather at Shahid Faruk Road in the capital’s Jatrabari everyday hoping to get a work. Keeping their spade and basket aside, they wait for employers who would hire them paying Tk 250 to 350 for a day.

But since the country witnessed a spike in the number of coronavirus cases, the number of employers visiting the spot has reduced. The employers who come there hire some of the workers according to their requirements but the rest of the workers remain unemployed despite waiting for long hours.

This has become a common scenario in the capital. Hundreds of day labourers, defying the risk of being infected by Covid-19, rush to different alleys of Madhubag, Hajipara, Azimpur, Mogbazar, Tejgaon, Badda, Shewrapara, Mohammadpur bus stand, Rayer Bazar areas etc. in search of work but most of their efforts go in vain due to lack of employers.

“I got work only two days last week which could not help me manage even a day’s food. Demand for day labourers has reduced with the declining number of construction work for coronavirus,” said Kajol Mia, a day labourer waiting for work at Shahid Faruk Road in Jatrabari.

Hafizul Islam lives in a small tin-shed house at Pulpar in Rayerbazar. He used to cut soil, transport bricks and sand, clean houses and do other works on daily wage basis prior to the pandemic. His wife Jasmine Akter worked as a housemaid.

But both are now unemployed and it has become difficult for them to buy daily foods. Hafizul waits every day for an employer at Rayerbazar to get a work for running his five-member family.

“I along with my family members went to the village home ahead of Eid as the situation was turning worse at that time. I thought things would improve after Eid. But it did not happen,” Hafizul said.

“Where will I get food? I need money to buy food. And I can earn money only when I would get work but no one takes me to work,” he added.

According to a survey titled ‘Impact of the Covid-19 Epidemic on Poverty and Livelihoods’ conducted by the South Asian Economic Forum (SANEM), the overall poverty rate in the country has risen to 42 percent, which was 21.7 percent in 2016.

Besides, the overall poverty rate in urban areas was 18.3 percent in 2016, which has increased to 35.4 percent during the coronavirus period.

The survey also found that the extreme poverty rate has increased by a few percent as a result of the pandemic. It was 9.4 percent in 2016 but the impact of the epidemic has increased the rate to 28.5 percent.

A Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) study said about two and a half crore people in the country work on a wage basis and among them the number of those who work on a daily basis is more than one crore. Economists said Bangladesh cannot handle the coronavirus situation without addressing their crisis.

Economist and senior research director of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) Nazneen Ahmed said it is important to keep a livelihood to save life. The government therefore has to coordinate between life and livelihood.

“In this case, it is necessary to take urgent initiative to provide food aid to the poor and marginalised day labourers and working people. At the same time, it is important to provide cash assistance to them,” she said.