Economic Research Forum (ERF)

The impact of Covid-19 on the labour market in Sudan

Even before the pandemic, Sudan was experiencing a severe crisis caused by economic and political instability – so it is difficult to disentangle the specific impacts of Covid-19. This column draws on survey evidence of how the country’s labour market has fared – and makes recommendations for policies to respond to the economic damage to households and firms.

In a nutshell

During the pandemic, many workers in Sudan have experienced change in employment status, change in main jobs and sector of employment, change in working conditions, particularly working hours, and change in monthly wages and incomes.

Many workers have suffered from temporary or permanent layoff/suspension (without pay), delay in wage payment, reduced earnings or delayed payment, and change in personal net monthly wage.

Workers have suffered from the country’s limited provision of social protection, social safety net and social insurance.

In response to the pandemic, governments around the world implemented vital protective measures, including shutting down many economic activities for a short period. This led to a global economic crisis with massive job losses and major impacts, including on labour markets.

Several international studies have examined the effects of Covid-19 on labour market. For example, the International Labour Organization (ILO) Monitor (2020) discusses the interaction between the pandemic and the world of work and estimates the labour income losses due to Covid-19.

According to the ILO Monitor (2020), working-hour losses translate into a substantial loss of income for workers around the world. The ILO Monitor estimates that global labour income declined by 10.7% during the first three quarters of 2020, compared with the corresponding period in 2019.

Several recent studies in MENA countries based on the ERF COVID-19 MENA Monitor Data (2020-2021) examine the economic impact of Covid-19 on households, firms and the region’s labour markets – including Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia (Nour, 2022a, b; Krafft et al, 2021a, b, c).

For Sudan, we explore the state of the labour market during the pandemic using new primary data from the ERF COVID-19 MENA Monitor Household Survey (2021) and from the World Bank and Sudan Central Bureau of Statistic High-Frequency Survey on COVID-19 (2020).

The results from the World Bank survey show the state of employment that appears from the loss of jobs for nearly two-thirds of households during the pandemic (June to July 2020). The results show that the main reason for households’ loss of jobs, unemployment and even changing jobs was because businesses and the government closed due to coronavirus restrictions.

The results show the loss of payment for nearly a fifth of households, partial payment for nearly half of households, and loss and reduction of households’ means of livelihood or source of income since mid-March 2020 from the non-farm family business, income from properties, investments or savings, and income from family farming, livestock or fishing.

The results from the ERF COVID-19 MENA Monitor Survey data (2021) show the state of the labour market and working conditions that appears from the increase in temporary or permanent layoff/suspension of workers, reduced hours, reduced wages, delays in wage payment for workers, reduced hours and lower revenues, the closure of business, reduced working hours due to Covid-19 and limited provision of social protection (social insurance) in Sudan between April 2021 and August 2021. These results are consistent with the results in other MENA countries (Krafft, Assaad, and Marouani, 2021a, b, c).

The findings from ERF COVID-19 MENA Monitor Survey data (2021) show that workers in Sudan experienced change in employment status, mainly, change in main jobs, sector of employment and economic activities, change in working conditions, particularly, change in the number of working hours, and change in households’ monthly wage and income.

Between April 2021 and August 2021, the employment rate decreased for agriculture, fishing or mining sector, and health sector, and the personal net monthly wages decreased for agriculture, fishing or mining, manufacturing, construction or utilities, retail or wholesale, transport and storage, and other services.

Between April 2021 and August 2021, the unemployment rate (according to the standard definition) increased for manufacturing, transport and storage, accommodation and food services, and health sector. The unemployment rate (according to the broad definition) increased for agriculture, fishing or mining, manufacturing, accommodation and food services, and health sector.

Between April 2021 and August 2021, the delay in wage payment more than doubled, and the temporary layoff/suspension of workers increased from nearly a tenth in April 2021 to nearly a fifth in August 2021.

During the pandemic, Sudan suffered not only from Covid-19 but also simultaneously from a critical economic crisis caused by economic instability and political instability that pre-dated pandemic. Therefore, it is hard to separate the impacts of the pandemic and those of the prior economic crisis.

Policy recommendations to manage the economic and social impacts on the labour market include:

  • Introducing measures to support the demand for labour through the provision of new employment incentives through the provision of hiring subsidies and improving access to formal and regular jobs in all sectors.
  • Increasing government direct support by increasing monthly wages subsidies to support all workers (particularly, vulnerable workers) across all sectors.
  • Supporting social protection for households and workers across all firms and across all sectors.
  • Enhancing training in the use of digital technologies to ensure that all workers have the skills and access to digital technologies to ensure effective use of digital technologies by workers in the post-pandemic period.
  • Increasing government support to firms and business enterprises by provision of business loans, salary subsidies, and reduced taxes for firms and business enterprises in Sudan.

Further reading

ILO (2020) ‘ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work: Sixth edition, Updated estimates and analysis’.

Krafft, Caroline, Ragui Assaad and Mohamed Ali Marouani (2021a) ‘The Impact of COVID-19 on Middle Eastern and North African Labor Markets: Glimmers of Progress but Persistent Problems for Vulnerable Workers a Year into the Pandemic’, ERF Policy Brief No. 57.

Krafft, Caroline, Ragui Assaad and Mohamed Ali Marouani (2021b) ‘The Impact of COVID-19 on Middle Eastern and North African Labor Markets: Vulnerable Workers, Small Entrepreneurs, and Farmers Bear the Brunt of the Pandemic in Morocco and Tunisia’, ERF Policy Brief No. 55.

Krafft, Caroline, Ragui Assaad and Mohamed Ali Marouani (2021c) ‘The Impact of COVID-19 on Middle Eastern and North African Labor Markets: A Focus on Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises’, ERF Policy Brief No. 60.

Nour, Samia (2022a) ‘The Impact of COVID-19 on Households and Firms in the MENA Region: the case of Sudan’, Agence Française de Développement (AFD) Research Paper No 250.

Nour, Samia (2022b) ‘The Impact of COVID-19 on Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Labor Market: The Case of Sudan’, ERF Policy Brief No. 87.

OAMDI (2021) ‘OAMDI, 2021: COVID-19 MENA Monitor Household Survey (CMMHH); Version 3.0 of the licensed data files; Sudan-CMMHH Apr-2021’.

OAMDI (2021) ‘OAMDI, 2021: COVID-19 MENA Monitor Household Survey (CMMHH); Version 3.0 of the licensed data files; Sudan-CMMHH August-2021’.

World Bank and Sudan Central Bureau of Statistic (2020) ‘Sudan High Frequency Survey on COVID-19 (2020)’.

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