The novel coronavirus has hit the world hard. Global health isn’t the only thing to suffer from COVID-19’s impact; the global economy has taken a huge toll, especially in Asian countries where nationwide lockdowns have been enforced for almost two months.
Businesses are expectedly suffering. The district of Wuhan, China, where the disease started, was the first region to experience massive industrial shutdowns that reverberated globally as factories and shops shuttered and employees were forbidden to go to their places of work.
These changes have echoed in many countries. Movement control orders, as recently implemented by Singapore and experienced by Malaysia over the past month and a half, have confined huge groups of the global population to their homes.
Life today is markedly different. Besides those working in “essential” industries (food, utilities and so on), many people have been forced to contend with painful joblessness, or adapt to working from home. Unemployment is usually more often the case – and this situation has had an unforeseen effect on the delivery industry.
Delivery industry: unexpectedly surging
Amidst the myriad suffering industries, the delivery industry is unexpectedly, or not, surging. Foodpanda and Grab are among two companies that have increased business in tandem with spiking demand for deliveries since the movement control order came into force on March 18.
According to Shubham Saran, Foodpanda Malaysia’s head of logistics, there had been a 7.5% increase in the number of delivery men for his company and a 37% increase in applications for the job.
In an interview with Free Malaysia Today, Shubham said his company had in fact begun to hire significant numbers of new riders a week before March 18.
Grab, on the other hand, has repurposed its force of e-hailing drivers to support its food and mart delivery services, after demand for e-hailing declined since the MCO started.
We are committed to our hardworking driver and delivery partners’ safety as well as yours. We’re continuing to supply…
A Grab spokesman said an increase in demand for food and grocery deliveries coupled with a strain on delivery networks were also factors that contributed to the decision.
Online stores that have seen a huge boost include Malaysian grocery delivery platforms Jaya Grocer, HappyFresh, Mydin and Tesco, according to a study by the Malaysian Digital Association and its market intelligence partner SimilarWeb.
“The online stores of supermarket chain Jaya Grocer (jayagrocer.com) and grocery delivery service HappyFresh (happyfresh.my) saw the biggest jumps in sequential traffic in the third week of March, with activity up by 600%, compared to the first two weeks of the month.
“Traffic to hypermarket chain Mydin (mydin.com.my) grew more than 540% in sequential traffic, while that to Tesco (tesco.com.my) rose by more than 450%,” said the report titled “Covid-19 lockdown: Malaysians go online for work, food and TV”.
Unemployment across the board
That said, the delivery industry remains somewhat of an outlier. A survey titled “The Effects of Covid-19 on Economic and Individuals (Round One)”, recently released by the Malaysian Statistics Department, showed that almost 47% of self-employed workers had lost their jobs – about 19,677 respondents of the survey’s 168,182. As for those who still had jobs, 35.5% reported a decrease in income by over 90%.
According to Amir Jalal, a research associate at independent think tank EMIR Research, the numbers could be taken to mean that out of 2.86 million self-employed workers, 1.34 million workers have lost their jobs and almost 540,000 have experienced a 90% decline in income.
“This is only for those who are self-employed, not even taking into account workers who have employers,” Amir wrote in a recently released thinkpiece.
Malaysian industries especially hit hard by the coronavirus include the hospitality industry – fully expected, in light of heavily reduced travel – and small and medium enterprises. And despite increased pressure from SME employers on the government to lift restrictions, their companies are not likely to be allowed to reopen before other, bigger industries, according to health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.