Many leaving cities facing financial hardships

A section of lower- and middle-class people, facing financial constraints amid the global coronavirus crisis, are starting to leave major cities mainly unable to maintain steady livelihood.

According to a survey, 60 percent of the residents of metropolitan cities are tenants. Some of those returning to the village have lost their jobs while many others are forced to leave as they could not continue to pay rents to their home owners.

In such a situation many homes and flats went vacant in last couple of months as the occupants left emptying the homes. This resulted in great demand for renting out homes and flats. One would not be surprised if there were clusters of ‘to-let’ signboards hanging on the streets in cities and towns.

Thousands of such ‘to-let’ signboards are said to be common picture now especially in the cities of Chittagong, Sylhet, Khulna, Rajshahi and many other smaller townships.

This correspondent tried to find out about the home vacancies in areas like Badda, Malibagh, Motijheel, Mirpur, Kallanpur, Shaymoli, Mohammadpur and some adjacent areas and learnt that around 30 percent of the tenants have already left, especially ahead of the Eid festival holidays.

Runa Begum, one such victims who has decided to leave the city after she lost her job last week, said, "I have lost my job because my company could not afford to continue paying employees like us anymore. So, I will leave the city before Eid holidays and settle down in my village home until I find something suitable.”

Masuk Mia, a resident of Shyamoli area, is also leaving the city. Explaining the reasons, he said, “I have a family of five members. My only son died a month ago suffering coronavirus symptom. We used to depend on his earning. We cannot afford to stay in the city anymore as we have no earning member.”

According to the latest household survey by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), 20.5 per cent of the country's population was below the poverty line before coronavirus. The extreme poor was 10 percent, the survey finds.

According to the World Bank, a person is not considered poor if his daily income is at least $90 cents. Below this is the person is considered poor. The World Bank's definition of middle-class income is a bit higher. According to them, those whose daily income is 10 to 50 dollars are middle class.

On the other hand, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said that if a person's purchasing power (PPP) is between 2 to 20 dollars per day, he or she can be termed middle class.

As such, the middle class in Bangladesh is 3.07 crore. In the context of Bangladesh, the middle class only earns two to four dollars a day. As such, the middle class on average earns a monthly income of Tk 40,000 to Tk 60,000. They (middle class) make up about 30 percent of the country's population.

Meanwhile, a BIDS survey says 13 percent of those working in the formal sector have lost their jobs in coronavirus situation. Roughly 57 percent of those whose income is less than Tk 11,000 have lost their income.

The overall income has decreased on average by 47.26 percent. And those whose income is more than Tk 30,000, their income has decreased by 39.4 percent and their income has stopped by 6.46 percent.