Thousands of self-employed people face being workless in the corona crisis as it continues to push the nation’s economy to its worse situation.
The informal economy where such people belong lack legal recognition and work without secure contracts, worker benefits, or social protection.
Such workers or ‘piece-rate workers’ represent about 80 per cent of the labour force in the country and the huge scale of vulnerable self-employment presents a challenge to the government despite its best efforts to stand by such vulnerable group of the society in this global crisis.
These people engaged in informal works like street barbers, cobblers, carpenters, tailors, electricians, waste pickers, domestic workers, street food cooks, and push-cart vendors literally have no earnings now, many of who face starvation or trying to switch to other labour works.
Amid the situation of lack of earning opportunities for the low-income group many have already left urban cities and passing uncertain future. In fact, many are forced to leave urban cities without being able to pay rents to their home owners.
Considering the situation, the tenants' council has organized a human chain demanding waiver of house and shop rent for the last three months. The leaders of the organization drew the attention of the Prime Minister and humbly called for taking necessary steps to waive the three-month rent considering the humanitarian aspect.
Due to lack of formal employment, many such undocumented workers are losing their jobs and suffering from financial crisis. According to the latest survey by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), the total workforce in the country is about 6 crore 35 lakh. Of this, about 5 crore 65 lakhs are working in the informal sector.
Most of the people who have moved or left their homes in the capital belong to this informal sector. Some of the institutional sector workers are also taking steps to save costs.
According to the Bangladesh Economic Association in the alternative budget for the fiscal year 2020-21, many people have lost their jobs due to the corona virus epidemic. The class structure of many people has changed. Many such vulnerable group of people have become extremely poor as they could not hold on to their regular income.
However, the condition of the very rich remains unchanged. Many people think that the decline in people's income has affected their livelihood. People have been flocking to their village homes for three months due to the general holiday.
About two crore people live in Dhaka and about 80 percent of these people live in rented houses in the city. That is why people have to live in rented houses (with high rent) depending on their salary or other source of income. The cost of renting a house always put people in the face of economic oppression.
However, most of the time they do not get the rented house as expected. But the picture has changed a lot in recent times. ‘To let’ is now hanging in homes in almost all areas of the capital Dhaka. But for some time now, the landlords have not been getting new tenants as expected. The reason for the vacancy is known, many people have not moved to a new home in this situation. As a result, those who have left their homes are left empty.
According to a survey by the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), a consumer rights group, house rents in the capital have risen nearly 400 percent in 25 years. At the same time, the prices of daily necessities have increased by 200 percent. In other words, the rate of increase in house rent is almost double the price of daily commodities at this time.
Moving around Hatirpul, Moghbazar, Rampura, Banasree, Kathalbagan areas of the capital, the Bangladesh Post correspondent found that some homeowners could not find tenants in a couple of months. This is increasing the anxiety of homeowners. Some homeowners have also reduced the rent so that the home does not remain vacant.
Mirajul, a resident of Shyamoly, said, “Our lifestyle has changed. Many are sending their families to the village as they cannot manage to continue living in the city.”
Shahidul Islam, a fellow resident in Moghbazar said, “I have sent my wife and three children to my hometown in Comilla so that I could save some money and survive.” He also said that it is quite impossible to survive with such low income. “I have a mobile repairing shop in Mirpur but business is down. There are fewer people and so fewer customers.”
Like Shahidul and Mirajul thousands of people belonging to the low-income group are passing days in uncertainty without having fixed or regular income.