SMEs and entities serving domestic and foreign markets worst hit in COVID-19 crisis Print
Saturday, 01 August 2020 19:34
SMEs and businesses serving domestic and foreign markets were the worst-hit sectors at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey titled ‘An Initial Assessment of the Impact of COVID-19 on Employers’, carried out by The Employers’ Federation of Ceylon (EFC) reveals.

‘While the hospitality and food service sector recorded the highest economic losses in terms of revenue, foreign exchange earnings and investment, exporters employing more than 250 employees lost all their earnings, the survey report goes on to disclose. Commenting on the latter finding, the assessment states that, ‘Since large scale companies account for about 95% of total export earnings, the impact on the balance of trade will be devastating.’

The survey report was presented to the media on July 30 at the EFC auditorium, Rajagiriya by a panel of experts headed by Director General EFC Kanishka Weerasinghe. The survey period was April-May 2020 and covered 100 firms, employing 125,000+ employees. Highlights of the report were presented by Advisor HR & Coordinator Research of the EFC Dinesh Ruwan Kumara. The EFC intends using the study findings to ‘inform policy makers about the interventions necessary to help companies to manage the crisis and grow out of it.’

In his opening remarks EFC DG Weerasinghe said, among other things, that the pandemic was ‘like shifting sands’ and that the world needs to ‘prepare for future pandemic waves’ and their aftermath. He added that the adverse fallout from the crisis on local companies was contained by the EFC-formulated Tripartite Agreement on Wages. The latter ensured that local livelihoods were retained and helped guard against ‘mass unemployment’. The EFC has submitted a 10 point policy to the government on issues growing out of the pandemic and their containment.

Some other crucial findings of the survey are:

* More than half of all responding companies were faced with serious cash flow problems in meeting day-to-day expenses. The cash flow of about 18% of the companies was sufficient only for one month while another 39% stated that they could survive for about three months.

* Subjective estimates of job losses by responding companies averaged at 7% and 9% for executive and non-executive staff respectively, across the sample. The highest job losses among non-executive staff were reported in the finance and insurance and manufacturing (15%) subsectors, followed by hospitality and food services (11%), agriculture (6%), and wholesale and retail trade (5%). Among executive staff, the highest job losses were reported in manufacturing(10%), finance and insurance (8.3%) and information and communication (7.5%).

*All responding companies identified workforce protection to be the most important coping strategy at organizational level, while Work from Home(WfH) was the second most important measure, particularly in sub-sectors dominated by office-type occupations in the service sector.

* Labour market-related policies were identified by respondents as the most important area that the government needs to address. Sri Lanka’s existing labour laws do not provide for pandemic-like situations, leaving a huge gap in institutional mechanisms to manage crises of this kind.

* Among monetary and fiscal policy remedial measures, employers suggested the reduction of interest rates, extension of debt moratoria and granting credit and other financial support for firms to re-start operations.
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Last Updated on Thursday, 05 November 2020 20:45