Informal sector revives gradually

Sohel Hossain Patwary

20 September, 2020 12:00 AM printer

The informal sector, which employs around 89 per cent of the country's total workforce, has started coping with the ‘new normal’ situation, thanks to the return of normalcy in formal economy after a prolonged slowdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As the wheels of the economy started moving again, informal-sector workers have been returning to income-generating activities, which is helping the economy to get back to its regular shape.

The informal sector was one most affected sectors of the global pandemic.

Economic analysts and experts said though the informal sector workers are getting back to work, their income is yet to reach the previous level.

They said it is a good sign that economic activities in the formal sector have restored fully over the last two months, which is also helping the informal sector to return to normalcy.

The pandemic-induced economic shutdowns had an immediate impact on these informal sector workers. Many of them became jobless overnight and were again dislodged from their newfound urban shelters and thus formed the bulk of the reverse migrants.

According to the last workforce survey, around 89 per cent of the country's workforce is engaged in the informal sector. A large part of them work on daily and contract basis and a sizable portion also works in different shops.

Besides, many work at public transports, ports, construction sites and markets. In total, about four crore people are engaged in the sector.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, informal workers at home, transport sector, construction sector, small business entities, shops, restaurant and markets have lost their jobs or became workless.

Most of these workers and employees became the subject of reverse migration that compelled them to go back to villages.

Dr Selim Raihan, Executive Director of South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM), said the informal sector is a key driver the economy.

Though the income is yet to reach the regular level, it is good that they are getting back to work, he added. The construction sector, which alone engages around 55 lakh people, has slowly been coming back to life during the last two months.

REHAB President Alamgir Shamsul Alamin said after a major shock due to the pandemic, the real estate sector is slightly getting active with the return of normalcy in economic activities.

Shops, markets and restaurants also have returned to normalcy, which means thousands of workers are returning their normal work. Sector insiders said more than 70 lakh people are engaged in these sectors. Mohammad Helal Uddin, president of Bangladesh Dokan Malik Samity, said these sectors have remained idle during March-June, causing job loss for a large number of workers.

Since July, these sectors started reopening slowly and now have become normal, he said.

Besides, the transport sector is another big contributor to informal sector economy that has reopened fully over the last two months.

Around 70 lakh people of this sector sat idle for around five months due to shutdown and stay-at-home measures.

Apart from these sectors, the agriculture sector has become normal. Sectors like, handloom, handicraft, beauty shops, daily vendors, housemaid, housemaids and manual workers are also coping up with the new normal.