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COVID-19’s impact on the homebased workers in 6 member countries of HomeNet Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, as of the end of March 2020
✨ HomeNet Cambodia✨
The Cambodian government does not have any schemes for supporting formal and informal workers, micro-small-medium social enterprises/businesses.
There is no loan with low interest, no regulation of micro-finance institution-banks etc. regarding the delay of loan repayment for a certain period.This affects many HBWs who borrowed money for increasing their production capacity.
There is an announcement to discount 50% for poor families for utilizing electricity and will be effective this month.
When the borders closed, many of HBWs still produce the products from home and sell locally; however, there are fewer and fewer buyers.
As for HBWs who are in Phnom Penh, they make masks from cotton Krama and sell them either wholesale or retail through local trade fairs, but the HNC coordinator told them not to join any new fair anymore to prevent the spread of Covid-19. So they still make masks and sell through their Facebook.
Many of the Artisan Association of Cambodia (AAC) members, who are the buyers of HBWs, have closed for at least for one month, and will make the decision to operate or not after that, but they still pay their workers. Some pay full salary, others pay a certain percentage, depending on their financial situation.
Cambodian people call on the government to talk to the banks and micro-finance institutions to delay the repayment but there is no reaction from the government yet, The HNC coordinator keeps following up on this.
Covid-19 Testing is still limited and the number of infections is increasing.
Fortunately, there is no HBW or AAC artisaninfected as of today.
Face book talk about Covid-19 is also not very open.
As a fair trade Association: AAC/NHC has actively been working on sending information regarding Covid-19 and Personal Protective Equipment.
The Cambodian government has used hotels for Covid-19 infected patients.
The new announcement from government: schools are being prepared for patients if there is a high rise in number.
There are seven medical persons from China helping to combat Covid-19.
The Prime Minister plans to put Cambodia in emergency state, using martial law soon.
The Indonesian government decided to impose a semi lockdown. It prescribes social distancing, now called physical distancing, as one of the policies to cope with the Covid-19 Pandemic.
The Indonesian government has other policies:
– Relaxing the terms for loans. Informal workers such as taxi drivers, micro-entrepreneurs, self-employed, fisherfolk who have loans, do not have to pay for one year.
– Relaxing tax for all workers. The workers withincome under 16 million rp. per month willbe free from tax.
– Increasing the cash transfer for the poor (who have PKH Card) by 200.000 rp. per month, for six months.
But, street vendors, waste pickers, homeworkers in putting out system and construction workers do not benefit from policies addressing theirparticular situation.
Informal workers found life difficult because they are not able to do normal work, market vendors are not able to go out to sellproducts, waste pickers are not able to collect and sell, while some home-based workers are forced to stop their activity because of worries about covid-19.
But some home-based workers and their families have no choice and are still doing their activities like in normal times , even if they’re afraid of the virus, because it’s better than having nothing to eat.
There are no national subsidies for informal workers, such as compensation or cash transfer, during theCovid -19 crisis.
There is an announcement to discount 50% for poor families for utilizing electricity and will be effective this month
Informal workers can’t find the important things : mask and alcohol gel for washing their hands.
Following is a summary of trends:
1) Steep rise in the number of cases, now more than 600; deaths at 35 (as of March 25), including five doctors and one university professor who died a few days after being admitted in a government hospital without benefit of getting the results of her covid 19 test (six days to process). Donations of test kits have just arrived from China, Korea, etc. so confirmed cases are expected to rise even more. However, these kits are not for all in need ; they will be used only for those who have severe symptoms. WHO predicts that if no decisive interventions are put in place, the number of cases can go up to 75,000 in five weeks. The lockdown is being implemented to slow the rise in cases, and ‘flatten the curve’ over time.
2) Health care system under severe stress — health personnel under threat because of lack of masks and other personal protective equipment, also due to lack of information and transparency from patients (A famous cardiologist died yesterday morning of covid 19 after being exposed to an infected patient without his knowledge; other doctors and nurses in the Philippine Heart Center where he worked and died are now under quarantine). Other exposed health workers in big hospitals are similarly on quarantine and therefore cannot render service. The acute lack of health care personnel(many of them are working abroad), already felt even before covid 19, has become a severe problem .
Big private hospitals have already announced they are no longer accepting patients. A few government hospitals have been designated as referral hospitals for Covid patients but their isolation rooms are limited. Many potential patients and “persons under investigation” with mild symptoms are being turned away to be accommodated in hotels and tents provided by local governments. Only those with spacious multi-room homes can afford self-isolation if they have symptoms as most people, especially those in poverty, live in crowded places.
3) Employment and economic crises are unfolding rapidly due to the enhanced community quarantine (actually a lockdown). More than 100,000 workers in the formal sector cannot work. Contractual workers who are employed on a no-work/no pay basis have no daily income. Workers in the informal economy — homebased workers, vendors, drivers, construction workers, micro-entrepreneurs- cannot go out of their homes and barangays. The plight of the working poor has become painfully obvious, and efforts to address their plight, from both government and private sectors, have acquired urgency. Because of the Luzon-wide lock down, market vendors and street vendors face difficulties; some really try to sell just to have money for family consumption.Elderly people are not allowed to go out at all, and not allowed to go the markets – to buy food etc. It is very difficult for them as wel,, especially ifthey do not have young people in their families.An aggravating factor is the return of almost a thousand overseas Filipino workers from infected cruise ships, and the impending displacement of 30,000 from the cruise industry.
Informal workers are supposed to be given an opportunity to work by going to their local government and applying for a 10 day job (actually sanitizing their homes) that will pay minimum wage . But this has just been announced by the Secretary of Labor and implementation still has to be monitored. A new law (Bayanihan Heal as One Act) was just enacted with provisions to support low income groups. . One of them grants informal workers financial support during this crisis in the amount of php 8,000 /month for two months.
4) Hunger and social crises loom in the horizon. Local government efforts to provide food packs are too slow, too small, and will not last long.The relief goods (food packs) that are provided by the government meant for 18 million households, are not enough, especially for big families. This is the height of summer, and a water crisis just like what happened last year is possible. The heat is making home quarantine unbearable for many poor and crowded households living in virtual ovens. If covid-19 spreads in crowded areas, hospitals and health personnel cannot handle sudden surges in the numbers of those who will be infected. Social unrest, raiding supermarkets and warehouses (which happened after Typhoon Haiyan) can erupt. Such instances will most likely be quelled by more authoritarianism, if not martial law.
HomeNet Philippines has a project producing facial masks – washable cloth masks – buy 1 and give one free – the free mask is donated to someone who cannot afford. It’s more sustainable.
The number of Covid-19 patientshas increased very fast these few days. Yesterday, the government just announced the emergency situation and semi lockdown from 22nd of March until the end of April. All schools, universities, malls, restaurants, entertainment services are closed. All traditional and religious festivals are cancelled to avoid people gathering . Foreign visitors have to show the health certificate and the people, especially above 70, were asked to stay home.
HNT, the informal workers’ movement, with support of our alliances especially the media, strongly called for essential measures . On 23 March, the government announced the special measure for informal workers affected by the impact of Covid-19 :
– Cash 5,000 B (about 50% of minimum wage) x 3 months
– 2.5 years loan : 10,000 B (interest is 0.1% /month)
– 3.5 years loan : 50,000 B (interest is 0.35% /month)
– reduction in the interest rate of state pawnshops.
– skills training, with per diem.has
The website for registration and submission of application will start operation at the end of March 2020. Some of our members have low technology and are in remote areas. So HNT has to make sure that they can access.
UHC covers all necessary tests and medical treatment of Covid-19 patients. And for informal workers who are covered by the Social Security Scheme, they will get daily cash and compensation for lack of work income.
Some HNT leaders are also health volunteers. Their volunteer work is exposing them to more health risks. They educate and monitor the community members coming back from infected areas such as Bangkok to do home quarantine. Some violence case happen because of these.
The government has policies and measures for formal workers only.
HomeNet got the masks and alcohol for washing hand, with support from the Women’s Union, for their members.
Home-based workers in supply chains in the garment sector have lots of difficulties; 70 per cent of contracts between Vietnam and EU have stopped and this is affecting home-based workers.
Street vendors lose their job due to social distancing policies.
The waste collector is the mosthigh risk group of infection, suffering from both physical and economic difficulties.