The most immediate impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been on the economic activity and employment – beside the impact on public health. In the absence any official data, the number of job losses triggered by COVID-19 as projected by PIDE its initial COVID Bulletin was as high as 18.5 million in case of complete restrictions. Recent numbers by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) making headlines are close – around 20.7 million people lost jobs due to COVID-19.
PBS’s special survey for evaluating impact of COVID-19 on wellbeing of people show that 55.7 million or 35 percent of the working population of 10 years and older was economically active pre-Covid, which dropped to around 35 million or 22 percent during the Covid period, which is when the cases peaked, and the lockdown was imposed (Apr-Jul). However, the interesting part is that the whim that Pakistan’s economy has made a V-shaped recovery post first wave of COVID-19 gets some validation from the PBS data. The survey paints an optimistic picture of the labor market situation; it shows a bounce to 33 percent economically active working population in the post Covid scenario (Aug-Oct); to be precise, 52.26 million people are reported working, which is almost a V-shaped recovery.
Province wise, the most affected has been Sindh followed by Punjab, Balochistan and KP. Sector wise, the most affected industries in terms of job lost were the manufacturing, construction, transport and storage, and wholesale and retail trade, while the most of the affected (74 percent) belong to the informal segment. However, over 90 percent of the workers in these sectors have seen recovery since the lockdown restrictions were lifted.
These findings of the survey are corroborated by SBP’s labor market findings in its 1QFY21 report, which shows that 10 percent of the industrial workers lost their jobs during the initial phase of the lockdowns; however, gradual ease in restrictions in the following months allowed recovery – though complete revival in the industrial labor market had not been achieved by end-August 2020. SBP findings also showed that that job losses in the manufacturing sector in Sindh were higher and the pace of recovery was also slower, which is partially attributed to heavy monsoon and subsequent flooding in August 2020 in Karachi.
The PBS survey finding show aggressive revival of industrial sector where a few industries started to hire more workers like the cement and textile industry, where job opportunities rose above the pre-Covid levels by August 2020. Similar observations were also made in SBP’s quarterly report where recovery in manufacturing and construction sector as well as increase in compensation for construction laborers in particular has been highlighted, which coincide with growth seen in LSM post-Covid restrictions.