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COVID-19 forces businesses in Ghana to reduce wages for over 770,000 workers, layoff 42,000 – GSS

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Businesses in Ghana feeling the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) have reduced wages for more than 770,000 employees and laid off 42,000, according to a survey by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS).

Results of the COVID-19 Business Tracker Survey conducted by the GSS, together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the World Bank, show that about 770,000 workers (25.7 per cent of the total workforce), had their wages reduced and about 42,000 employees were laid off during the country’s COVID-19 partial lockdown. The pandemic also led to reduction in working hours for close to 700,000 workers, it found.

The Business Tracker Survey is part of a global Business Pulse Survey (BPS) initiative of the World Bank, surveying the impact of COVID-19 on the private sector in more than 40 countries.

Some 4,311 businesses were interviewed survey which was carried out between May 26 and June 17, 2020 across the country to assess how the novel coronavirus has impacted private businesses.

Commenting, Professor Samuel Kobina Annim, the Government Statistician said: “Government has already put in place diverse supports for businesses including the establishment of a Coronavirus Alleviation Programme to protect jobs, livelihoods and support small businesses. There also is the government’s GH¢600 million Stimulus Package to small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs). The findings of the Business Tracker provide specificity on the pathways of effects, variation in the effects for different categories of businesses, their geographical areas, and the extent of effects.”

According to a press release copied to ghanabusinessnews.com, the data also show that during the lockdown, about 244,000 firms started adjusting their business models by relying more on digital solutions, such as mobile money and Internet for sales. Firms within the agriculture sector and other industries used relatively more digital solutions (56 per cent), with establishments in the accommodation and food sector being the least that adopted digital solutions (28 per cent).

Fredrick Mugisha, UNDP Economic Advisor for Ghana and The Gambia was quoted as saying; “If businesses, especially SMEs are provided with the needed support to adopt best practices, particularly in the use of digital solutions, this could go a long way to increase their productivity and resilience to future challenges.”

Generally, the results indicate that during the country’s COVID-19 partial lockdown, businesses received shocks in supply and demand for goods and services. Close to 131,000 businesses had challenges accessing finance and expressed uncertainty in business environment, the release indicated.

“The survey shows that COVID-19 has had a deep impact on Ghana’s private sector, through several channels. Firms are experiencing lower demand for their products, difficulties in accessing finance and sourcing inputs, and face an extended period of uncertainty. The World Bank is working closely with the Government of Ghana to mitigate these negative impacts and assist businesses to survive the pandemic and build resilience in the face of the changed economic conditions”, said Pierre Laporte, World Bank Country Director for Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

The survey estimated that the average decrease in sales, was at GH¢115.2 million, with firms in the trade and manufacturing sectors (including exporting firms) largely affected.  More than half of these firms had difficulties in sourcing inputs due to non-availability or increase in costs, leading to challenges in covering revenue shortfalls, it noted.

Even though the lockdown measures have been relaxed, the survey results show a high degree of uncertainty in the expectations of firms regarding sales and employment over the next six months, the release said.

Authors of the report however, suggest that to lessen the impacts of COVID-19, there is need for policies to support firms in the short and medium term.

The most desired policies cited by the private sector include measures to improve liquidity such as subsidized interest rates, cash transfers and deferral of tax payments. Many firms were not aware of the government’s support programs, suggesting the need for increased awareness and clarity on the guidelines and requirements of current interventions, it said.

The authors also suggest that efforts should be concentrated on re-establishing channels that were adversely affected during the pandemic. These should include re-establishing supply chains by providing credit guarantee schemes for those accessing finance, facilitating input procurement, and access to foreign markets to boost demand. The report also proposes support for firms with grants and business development services to upgrade technologies to increase productivity.

As at August 3, 2020, Ghana has recorded 37,812 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 191 deaths and 34,313 recoveries.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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