COVID-19 unemployment hits 80 percent of low income Bahamian households
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Just over 80 percent of low income Bahamian households were impacted by loss of employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report.
The bank furthered that nearly 73 percent of Bahamian households had reported income loss in April of this year.
The findings were based on an online socioeconomic survey, which had 910 respondents.
The report, entitled “The Caribbean Crisis: Results from an Online Socioeconomic Survey”, noted that the percentage of households reporting income below the minimum wage increased from 16.1 percent in January to 47.6 percent in April.
The paper noted that the three main factors contributing to this shock were business closures, employment loss and loss of rental income.
According to the report, 50.8 percent of households surveyed reported that they had closed their business either due to requirements by authorities or due to lack of demand.
The survey also revealed that 50.2 percent of households declared at least one job loss and 18.4 percent of households indicated that they had stopped receiving payment for renting real estate or vehicles.
“The crisis affected all sources of income and all income levels, but not in the same magnitude,” the report read.
“Households that reported earnings below the minimum wage in January 2020 were more severely impacted, particularly from employment loss (80.6 percent), compared to middle and high-income households (50.2 percent and 35.1 percent, respectively).
“Working remotely was more prevalent among high-income households (54.2 percent) compared to low and middle-income counterparts (about 35 percent). The employment shock was also unequal across genders, as 58.5 percent of women declared losing their jobs compared to 39.1 percent of men,” the paper noted.
It was also noted that only 37.9 percent of households indicated that they had enough savings to cover an unexpected expense.
“Households’ preparedness varied by pre-pandemic income level,” it continued.
“Households that reported higher total household income in January 2020 were more prepared to cover immediate expenses. Only 1.9 percent of low-income households (those earning below the minimum wage) reported having enough savings for an emergency expense, whilst 29.9 percent reported having enough savings to cover one week or more of basic expenses.”
The report read: “Comparatively, 92.8 percent of households earning 11 times or more the minimum wage reported having enough savings to cover an emergency expense, and 94.4 percent reported having enough savings to cover one week or more of basic expenses, the paper noted.”
During the pandemic, 22.2 percent of Bahamian households requested loans, transfers, or remittances from family or friends.
The survey found that the incidence was higher in low-income households where 37.7 percent of households earning less than the minimum wage requested a loan compared to 13.3 percent of households earning more than four times the minimum wage.
It was also noted that financial support from employers to cover household expenses was slightly higher for middle-income households (27.6 percent) than for low- and high-income households (23.3 percent and 22.7 percent, respectively).
The survey also revealed that 46.3 percent of low-income households benefited from social programs implemented in response to the pandemic.
Three types of social programs that are part of the government’s economic support package were included in the survey: monthly food assistance vouchers; unemployment insurance administered through the National Insurance Board; and meal vouchers for students who depend on school meals.