Half of Nepalis lost jobs in past month

More than half of Nepal’s employed people have lost their jobs in the past month,  according to the result of a nationwide survey announced on Friday.

Agriculture and tourism were the two sectors most seriously affected by job losses, while those depending on daily wages incurred significant economic losses which ultimately affected the socio-economic wellbeing of children and their families.

‘Most families may have been forced to reduce food intake and essential expenses, including nutrition and education for children.  About 99% of the families reported receiving no support to stave off the hardship,’ says a report on the results of the rapid assessment survey. 

The poll was conducted by Sharecast Initiative Nepal with support from UNICEF Nepal during end-May 2021, and involved interviews with 3,000 households with families. The survey showed that job and income losses were most severe in Bagmati and Karnali Provinces.

Over the past year, UNICEF has been monitoring family income and its impact on children through Child and Family Tracker which has shown that over 60% of households with children experienced economic and livelihood losses in the first two months of last year’s  lockdown. This had impacted children within those households most directly.

Two months into the lockdown in May 2020, more than half the families polled last year had already reported a loss of jobs or earnings, resulting in one-third of the households facing shortages of food, medicines and other necessities.

While the political parties are preoccupied with an intense power struggle for the past year, the state has left Nepalis, especially its most vulnerable citizens like children and the underserved and excluded, to fend for themselves in dealing with the health and socio-economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis.

Although most families with children were able to recover economically since then, 40% of them remained at risk of falling into poverty. The overall income distribution did not catch up to levels before lockdowns even by end-2020

The previous survey results had shown that the loss of jobs and livelihoods was down from 61% in July 2020 and 55% in May 2020 to 19% in January 2021. However, the job losses appear to have climbed steeply again, corresponding with the Covid-19 second wave peak in Nepal

Support from any level of government has been non-existent despite the well-documented economic fallout of Covid

The latest survey results show that one in every five families had to reduce the quantity of meals their children ate, or had to change the variety of food intake. Children in only one-third of households had access to distance learning. Most children belonging to low-income households or under-served communities did not have access to distant learning for the past year. 

The lack of work has also reduced child labour. While 31% of households said their children worked before lockdown, this dropped to 8% during the closures. Last year’s surveys showed, however, that in 20% of households children were back to working to augment family income after the lockdown ended.

‘This implies that while the lockdown contributed to a significant reduction in child labour, children are most likely to start work to help their families cope with the economic struggles,’ Sharecast says.   

Using the results of the tracking survey, UNICEF Nepal is implementing an emergency cash transfer scheme in response to the emerging needs of more than 10,000 children. But this is just the tip of the iceberg, and there are many more children in need.

The surveys show that the health, education and nutrition of children in families depending on daily wages and those who have lost incomes and jobs are being most adversely affected. UNICEF Nepal has welcomed the government’s decision to expand its Child Grant Program to 33% of vulnerable households. 

The survey shows that the lockdown has been a serious setback for a vast segment of society, and there has been little or no government response. It shows the need for universal state assistance to citizens for jobs and income.


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