Large sectors of Timor-Leste’s population have seen significant declines in income since the implementation of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus in April 2020, according to a United Nations Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (SEIA) launched today.
The report, which surveyed 419 households (2575 people) in Baucau, Bobonaro, Dili, and Viqueque and the Special Administrative Region of Oecusse, between April and August.
The results outline how measures implemented under a state of emergency (SoE) have impacted the income of Timorese individuals and households, many of whom are reliant on daily public interactions to make money in informal employment.
The SEIA also interviewed 99 medium, small and micro enterprises from 15 different industries including agriculture, tourism and construction and 40 key-informant interviews with government, development partners and community leaders in health, education, agriculture, social protection, finance, justice and state administration at national and local levels.
The pandemic was successfully contained through the government’s rapid response. However, vulnerable households and individuals, and households outside of Dili were more severely impacted by SoE restrictions on movement and economic activity.
Some of the most significant findings from the survey areas include:
· 59 percent of people who had an income prior to the crisis lost it during the state of emergency.
· The number of vulnerable households without an income increased fourfold during the state of emergency.
· 1 in 4 households had at least one person who lost their job because of the pandemic.
· The number of people earning their primary income from self-employment dropped by 85%.
· Youth unemployment was extremely high – only 12.3 percent of persons between 15 and 29 were at work.
· Women spent more time on extra domestic work than men. 34% of women (20% of men) indicated that they spent more time on household chores.
· Limited access to markets and disruption of public transportation were the main limiting factors for households (32%) and businesses (77%).
“This report also identifies the strength and resilience of the Timorese people. Workers across many informal sectors, as well as frontline health and security workers have bravely continued their work during this difficult period. I would like to applaud the government and parliament for their quick responses and implementation of important socio-economic and food security stimulus packages,” said UNDP Resident Representative Ms Munkhtuya Altangerel.
In addition to the SoE, in 2020 Timor Leste faced increased stresses from environmental shocks and climate change such floods and drought. This made it especially difficult for rural households to cope with income disruption.
Eighty six percent of households involved in agriculture experienced major reductions in production. Survey respondents suggested the best ways the government could help sustain their livelihoods, would be through supplying food, drinking and cooking-water, social security and electricity supply.
“A serious diagnostic assessment is always fundamental in designing public policy that responds to the necessities of our citizens and the economy,” said Coordinator Minister for Economic Affairs, H.E. Joaquim Amaral.
“I would like to thank the United Nations and especially the UNDP for their hard work in conducting this study. It has been presented at an important time, as we prepare the budget for 2021 and take into account measures that will make Timor Leste stronger in the future,” said President of the National Parliament H.E. Anisetto Guiterres Lopes.
Find the Final report here