Assessing impact of COVID-19 on retail sales jobs in Bangladesh

Closing date


The labour market impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic crisis have been severe, costing the Asia-Pacific region a 7.9 per cent drop in working hours over the course of 2020. Measured in full-time job equivalence, this corresponds to the working time of 140 million full-time workers. About 62 million workers lost their jobs entirely as a result of the crisis and nearly 80 million continued to be in employment but on reduced, or even zero hours[1]. The painful loss of labour income has pushed millions in the region across the poverty threshold especially as the peculiarities of this crisis have limited some of the fallback options that households might ordinarily follow to smooth income during times of shocks. Options to pick up extra casual (informal) work have been limited by lockdowns and slow domestic recoveries.

Female workers have been disproportionately affected by the crisis. Available data revealed higher shares of job loss for women than men in ten economies in the region with available data (measured as quarterly change at peak employment loss in 2020). In seven of the ten economies, job loss among women was also larger in terms of absolute numbers[2]. Whether women who remained employed were more affected than male workers by working hour losses is a question that remains for investigation.

The disadvantages for women workers arrive through multiple channels. First, a large share of women in the region works in sectors that are severely affected by the crisis. Sectors found to be most affected in terms of production and employment losses include manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, and accommodations and food services. In Asia and the Pacific, 297 million women in 2019 were working in the sectors soon to be most touched by the crisis. This corresponded to 43.3 per cent of female employment (compared with 37.6 per cent for all workers)[3] Second, increased care demands in many cases affect women disproportionately, also in the Asia–Pacific region. Schools and childhood education centres in many countries were closed as part of the lockdown measures to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. The resulting increased demand for unpaid care work, which evidence has shown falls more heavily on the shoulders of women, requires a flexibility from family members that is difficult to reconcile with the job demands from a paying employer. Many women have reported feeling especially burdened with the increased juggling of paid and unpaid care work. The strain has resulted in some women giving up paid work to concentrate on the added household duties during lockdown. Whether voluntary or not, the crisis pushed more women than men into inactivity in seven of the ten economies examined.

The ILO and ADB are undertaking a study on the impact on jobs in one of the more affected sectors – retail. The study will take a gendered focus to understand the extent to which women in the sector were especially penalized during the Covid-19 crisis. Approximately 215 million persons work in the retail sales sector in the Asia-Pacific region. Slightly less than 100 million are women. The sector is one of the largest when it comes to women’s employment. For the region, on average, 14 per cent of women’s employment is in the retail sector. In Bangladesh, while only half a million women were working in the retail sales sector, according to the latest available labour force survey data (2017), this still represented the fifth largest sector for women’s employment (behind agriculture, textile manufacturing, education and domestic services). According to ILO estimates, the wholesale and retail sector was among the hardest hit in terms of job losses due to the COVID-19 crisis, shedding 5 per cent of jobs globally compared to the no-pandemic scenario[4].

As input to the ILO-ADB study, an external consultant is sought to undertake the assessment of the pandemic’s impact on jobs within the retail sales sector in Bangladesh, looking at the specific impact on women in the sector[5]. In the absence of recent labour force survey data, the consultant is expected to base the assessment on secondary data sources as well as using primary data collected from interviews of managers, employees and own-account workers in the retail sales sector.

Objectives of the assignment

The objective of the assignment is to provide evidence of the impact that Covid-19 has had on the employment of men and women in the retail sales sector in Bangladesh[6]. Ultimately, the evidence will contribute to an ILO-ADB study of the gender penalties to employment outcomes and prospects brought about by the pandemic.

Scope of the work

Under the overall guidance of the Regional Economic and Social Analysis Unit (RESA) of the ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, the consultant is expected to perform the following tasks:

i. Conduct an in-depth desk review of existing literature on the Covid-19 impact on the retail sector and retail sector jobs in Bangladesh, with a particular focus on gender issues and covering both the formal and informal sectors. The review should include an examination of latest available labour force statistics on number of men and women employed in the retail sales sectors (ISIC Revision 4 category 47), including by detailed occupation, by status in employment, type of contract, hours worked and wages.

ii. Compile existing economic statistical data on retail sales, number of retail establishments, bankruptcies and other administrative and enterprise data of relevance to quantifying the health of the retail sales sector, including retail survey data, if such exists. Data should cover as much of the Covid-19 period as possible and one to two years prior, approximately 2018 through 2020.

iii. Undertake a survey of formal retail store managers[7] in the capital city[8] to understand the strategies utilized by enterprises to preserve human resources during lockdown periods, revenues, hiring and firing trends, hours and wages. The expected sample size is in the range of 50-100 managers and the sample should not overlap to employees interviewed in the survey item (iv). The sample should also take into consideration the size of the enterprise, with sufficient representation across size classes.

iv. Undertake a survey of formal retail employees in selected urban centers of the country[9] to understand the strategies utilized by enterprises to preserve human resources during lockdown periods, hiring and firing trends, hours and wages, and personal coping strategies at both the workplace and at home. The expected sample size is in the range of 250-300 persons with near equal distribution of men and women.

v. Undertake a survey of retail sales own-account workers or employees in market places[10] in selected urban centers to understand changes in hours of work and income, and personal coping strategies at both the workplace and at home. The expected sample size is in the range of 250-300 persons with near equal distribution of men and women.

vi. Develop the research protocol, including purposive sampling plans and survey strategy, interview questions and other required elements, to ensure that implementation of the research is effective, culturally appropriate, gender-sensitive, and ethical.

vii. Undertake key informant interviews with (retail) employers’ associations and workers groups (identified in collaboration with the ILO);

viii. Analyze the qualitative and quantitative data, organize and synthesize findings. Produce a report in English on the findings of the research based on the suggested structure below (max. 30 pages):
a. Introduction
b. Methodology
c. State of the retail sector (assessment of macroeconomic indicators and sector statistics)
d. Survey results: labour market impact in the retail sales sector, including formal and informal sectors
e. Main findings and lessons learned
f. References

ix. Share data collected in clean excel or STATA files.


The following deliverables and timeline are expected:

  1. Detailed research strategy: to be delivered by 30 July 2021;
  2. Sampling plan and questionnaires for managers, store-front employees, non-storefront workers: first drafts to be delivered by 9 August 2021;
  3. Status report (estimating 4 weeks field work): to be delivered by 1 September 2021;
  4. Draft summary report: to be delivered by 13 September 2021,
  5. Final summary report, including revisions based on review and feedback from the ILO and ADB: to be delivered by 4 October 2021;
  6. Clean data files: to be delivered by 4 October 2021.

Assignment Period

From approximately mid-July to mid October 2021; estimated 40 days.

Qualification & Experience Required

The consultant (or consultancy firm) is expected to have the following skills and expertise:

  • Advanced degree in economics, economic history, development studies, social sciences or related discipline;
  • A minimum of ten (10) years of work experience with labour market research/analysis, informal economy, informal labour and related areas. Familiarity with the Asia-Pacific region is an advantage;
  • Have proven knowledge of and experience in implementing research methodologies, including quantitative and qualitative data collection methods. Track record in implementing surveys, producing national studies and research is an advantage;
  • Excellent writing and communication skills in English; and,
  • Strong interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate and work well with diverse people.


  1. Regional labour market impact data come from the ILO, Monitor on Covid-19 and the world of work, Seventh edition, 2021.
  2. Australia, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka and Thailand, with females shares in the Philippines, Taiwan (China) and Viet Nam just below 50 per cent.
  3. ILO, Asia-Pacific Employment and Social Outlook 2020: Navigating the crisis towards a human-centred future of work, 2020.
  4. The estimate combines wholesale and retail trade. Latest data from ILO, World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2021.
  5. The retail sales sector is defined here as that which relates to the resale (sale without transformation) of new and used goods mainly to the general public for personal or household consumption or utilization, by shops, department stores, stalls, mail-order houses, hawkers and peddlers, consumer cooperatives etc. In terms of employment statistics, the sector of interest corresponds to grouping 47 of the International Standard Industrial Classification (ISIC Rev. 4).
  6. Similar studies will be run in Indonesia, the Philippines and Vanuatu.
  7. Questionnaires to be developed in collaboration with the ILO. It would be good to have a mix in the selection of store types by product (e.g. clothing, shoes, electronics, etc.), but this can be discussed at the time of the sample design.
  8. Fixed storefronts in commercial centers or commercial high streets.
  9. Working in fixed storefronts in commercial centers or commercial high streets.
  10. Working from either fixed or mobile stalls or market places.

How to apply

Qualified and experienced experts are requested to submit the following:

  • Curriculum vitae;
  • Detailed proposal describing how she or he will approach the work;
  • Estimated budget (financial proposal), including professional fees (daily rate and expected number of working days) and additional expenses (e.g. transportation costs, if applicable).

The application (expression of interest) should be submitted by 30 June 2021, 5:00 pm GMT+7, to (Ref: RESA-EOI-BGD-2021/001).