Socio-Economic Impacts of Covid-19 Movement Control Order (MCO) on Women’s Livelihoods in Selangor
Authors: Siti Kamariah Ahmad Subki, Rusni Tajari, Nur Hazwani Husin, Muhammad Hafizz Dzulkifli, Leoniek Kroneman & Lim Su Lin
Date: April 2020
This study examined the socio-economic impact of the government’s Movement Control Order (MCO) due to the Covid-19 pandemic on women’s livelihoods. The study was conducted on women in Selangor in the second week after the MCO was announced. An online survey in Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mandarin and Tamil were launched through various social media platforms. The survey comprised 30 questions and took 5 to 10 minutes to complete. A total of 442 women completed the survey within 4 days. On 25 March 2020 the Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced a further 3- week extension of the MCO, until April 14 2020.
The sample was well distributed across age groups, with a larger representation seen among ethnic Bumiputera groups, households within the B40 category (monthly household income below RM 6,275) and employed divorced women when compared to publicly available statistics from the Department of Statistics.
The results showed that 25% of women have lost paid employment during the MCO period owing to termination of employment contracts, business closure or being placed on unpaid leave. Moreover, almost half of the women (43%) reported that they have lost income due to the MCO. Especially vulnerable are women in larger households, women with lower monthly household income and women whose household income (partially) depends on daily wages. These groups reported loss of income more often with lower levels of financial preparedness. Single mothers, in particular, emerged as the most vulnerable group, with one quarter living below the poverty line index and nearly half reporting lost income due to the MCO. Although to a lesser extent, women with a monthly household income in the M40 category are also affected, as 7% of them are either on unpaid leave or have closed their business, and 12% reported having lost household income due to the MCO.
The majority of women have dependents and one third of women reported that their care arrangements had changed due to the MCO. 37% of women did not have any support to take care of their dependents when they are working. Despite the existence of state-funded stimulus aids, there was a percentage of women who responded being unaware of the Selangor Cares Special Stimulus Package (19%), or its eligibility criteria (44%).
With regards to access to financial services, only 25% of women had access to a credit card, 20% could ask for a personal loan and 9% had access to asset backed lending. Three out of five women had no access to any of these financial services. In addition, 14 women reported that either they themselves or their head of household had borrowed money from an Ah Long (illegal loan shark), while another 7 women were unsure about this. Although these women make up just 5% of the sample, the findings are concerning since such financial arrangements are risky and threaten women’s financial security in the long term. Women who felt more financially prepared were those who either had longer-lasting savings, access to a credit card or access to any form of financial service.