PESHAWAR: The construction and food sectors laid off the highest number of their workforce during the first wave of Covid-19 pandemic in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, according to a survey.

The survey to assess the impacts of Covid-19 on small business and informal labour was conducted in August-September last year. The findings of the survey were discussed at a roundtable session. It was jointly organised by planning and development department and United Nations Development Programme’s merged areas development plan.

The findings of the survey showed that construction sector laid off about 51 per cent workers during the lockdown while food sector including hotels, restaurants, bread, milk, meat and fruit shops lost 34 per cent of its workforce during the first wave of the pandemic.

The agriculture sector laid off 31 per cent of its workforce, wholesale and retail trade 24 per cent, manufacturing sector 16 per cent, transport 14 per cent and other services lost 24 per cent of their workforce during this period.

Survey says about 55pc businesses remained closed for three months

A total of 3,200 small business owners and labourers were interviewed for the survey. Of them 2,800 of were businessmen and 400 were labourers. They belonged to all districts of the province and merged areas in eight sectors including transportation, food, agriculture, construction, wholesale and retail, manufacturing and others.

The survey said that the income of 52 per cent of businesses dropped below Rs20,000 during the first wave of the pandemic. The construction and manufacturing were also the worst hit sectors as about 30 per cent of them lost up to 100 per cent revenue.

It said that a decline in sale, especially in manufacturing and construction sectors and other services, persisted as lockdown was eased. Businesses in construction and manufacturing sectors remained shut down for the longest, followed by transportation sector.

It said that 72pc of construction, 31pc of agriculture, 41pc of food, 70pc of manufacturing, 69pc of transportation and 39pc of retail sectors remained closed for more than three months due to the pandemic. About 55pc of businesses remained closed for three or more months.

Besides, one-third of labourers were without work for more than five months during lockdown and the ratio of out of work laborers touched its highest 34 per cent in the fourth month of lockdown. It came down to six per cent in the fifth month after the restrictions were eased.

Across all the sectors, more than 70 per cent of the business owners viewed the threat of Covid-19 as serious because it could be life threatening with serious likelihood of falling sick.

More than two-third of the labourers (68 per cent) responded that the best strategy to minimise their income losses would be to provide cash to them through Ehsaas Programme.

About 55 per cent of them preferred government’s assistance through interest-free loans on easy installments while 62 per cent of the business owners in the retail and wholesale sectors also preferred such loans. Almost 30 per cent of the business owners in construction and manufacturing sectors each preferred tax cuts and reduction in electricity rate by the government.

Additional Chief Secretary Shakeel Qadir Khan in his remarks said that conducting the survey was a noteworthy effort under testing circumstances and limited timeframe.

He said that the intent was not to conduct a statistically perfect survey but to perform trend analysis for the government to be used in making decisions and setting priorities. He added that planning and development department was in the process of conducting the third phase of the business and labour survey for further insights into the patterns and trends of economic and business revival in the province.

Mr Khan also lauded the efforts of all the departments and partners, who were involved in the implementation and compilation of the survey activities and findings.

Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2021

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