New data reveals the COVID-19 impact on workers’ livelihoods in urban areas


Researchers from the United Nations University World Institute of Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) and the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), University of Ghana, Legon conducted a survey with more than 600 workers in different cities throughout Ghana to assess the immediate and near-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on labour market outcomes.

These data have been analysed and published in a new report delivering novel insights on how the pandemic and related policy measures have impacted the livelihoods of workers and their families.

In the report, the researchers provide a comprehensive overview of their findings, which can help inform future policies. Four main results stand out:

The COVID-19 impact was acutely felt—84% of respondents reported a decline in household income since the start of the pandemic, and an alarming 42% had lost the household’s main income source, in most cases being derived from the labor market.
Not all workers were affected equally—job and earnings losses were disproportionally reported by women and workers in informal self-employment, accentuating pre-existing inequalities.
In September 2020, employment and earnings were still remarkably below pre-pandemic levels, and the recovery has been slow to reach the most vulnerable.
Despite this, respondents expressed support for Ghana’s COVID-19 policy response—both the early implementation of strict containment policies and the subsequent rollback.

About the researchers

Simone Schotte is a an applied microeconomist with research interests in development and labour economics, working specifically at the interface of poverty, inequality, and employment dynamics research. She joined UNU-WIDER as Research Associate in February 2019. Before coming to Helsinki, she worked at the German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) and was a consultant to the World Bank. She holds a PhD in economics from the University of Göttingen, Germany, where she was a member of the Globalization and Development (GlaD) research training group.

Michael Danquah, a development economist, is a Research Fellow at UNU-WIDER currently serving as co-focal point for the project Transforming informal work and livelihoods within UNU-WIDER’s 2019–23 work programme. Michael is a visiting Research Fellow at the Transfer Project and a Researcher for the International Growth Centre (IGC), Ghana. Previously, he worked at the Department of Economics, University of Ghana, Legon. His research interest is in economic development in sub-Saharan Africa, primarily focussing on issues such as informality, inequality and poverty reduction, and productivity growth among others.

Robert Darko Osei is an Associate Professor in the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), University of Ghana, Legon, and also the Vice Dean for the School of Graduate Studies at the University of Ghana. Robert has published widely in edited volumes and top international journals. His main areas of research include evaluative poverty and rural research, macro and micro implications of fiscal policies, aid effectiveness and other economic development policy concerns. He is currently involved in a number of research projects in Ghana, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali.

Professor Kunal Sen has over three decades of experience in academic and applied development economics research. He is the author of eight books and the editor of five volumes on the economics and political economy of development. From 2019 he is the Director of UNU-WIDER, and he is a professor of development economics at the Global Development Institute, University of Manchester.

Professor Sen is a leading international expert on the political economy of growth and development. He has performed extensive research on international finance, the political economy determinants of inclusive growth, the dynamics of poverty, social exclusion, female labour force participation, and the informal sector in developing economies. His research has focused on India, East Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.

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