A joint survey of the T&T Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI) and the T&T Manufacturers Association (TTMA) has found that as a result of the country’s COVID-19 mitigation measures, 36 per cent of the businesses surveyed have terminated full time employees and 55 per cent have terminated part time or contractual employees.
Mostly small and medium enterprises (SMEs) took part in the survey which was done to assess the economic impact of COVID-19 on services and manufacturing sectors.
The survey found that 91 per cent of total respondents employed on average between one to 50 part-time or contract employees and 70 per cent of all respondents employed between one to five persons part time or on contractual relationships.
The termination of these employees will have negative consequences on the national economy, unemployment, poverty, quality of life and standard of living, the survey noted.
According to the Central Statistical Office, a small enterprise is defined as having between six to 25 employees and sales of $250,000 to $5,000,000 and a medium enterprise as having between 26-50 employees and sales of $5,000,000 to $10,000,000 (excluding real estate).
To gauge the size of businesses captured in the survey without real sales data, the assumption was made to define a company with 100 or fewer employees as an SMEs.
The survey regarded SMEs as important contributors to job creation and economic development, adding that according to the World Bank, formal SMEs contribute up to 40 per cent of national income (GDP) in emerging economies.
In T&T, it has been estimated that SMEs account for over 50 per cent of GDP.
Respondents were also asked about innovative strategies implemented in response to the pandemic.
Thirty-eight per cent simply did not implement any new measures, either because their operations were considered non-essential and had to be significantly scaled back or because the nature of their activities was not conducive to such strategies, the survey noted.
It also noted that many service providers, especially firms in ICT, education, and professional services, were able to shift their activities online.
Other service providers and manufacturers shifted the administrative aspects of their business online and either scaled back their operations or changed their method of product delivery to facilitate curb side pick-up, delivery for online or telephone orders or sales at factory outlets, results showed.
Some firms, the survey said, used the downtime to ramp up their online and social media presence/marketing, perform maintenance on plants and machinery and brainstorm on new product and service offerings.
“Some firms were able to reposition their services and/or products to either make them ‘essential’ or to market them to essential businesses.
“For others, they essentially discontinued their pre-pandemic core activities and took up new activities which are currently in high demand,” the survey added.
For example, some businesses engaged in the production and importation of masks and other personal protective equipment.
The survey showed that other mitigation strategies were mostly aimed at survival and included, negotiating with staff to take vacation, implementing shift systems and reducing wastage and inefficiencies.
The arts, entertainment and recreation sector, known as the creative industry, has been heavily hit as many businesses experienced cancellations in performances, sporting events and trainings have been halted, added to which workers have been laid off and companies are struggling to survive.
However, the survey showed some sub sectors such as fashion have adapted to new emerging demands for face mask but others have been out of operation since the ‘stay at home’ order was implemented.
Almost all sub sectors have resorted to social media platforms to advertise and continue promoting their products and services.
“Many local businesses have recorded little to no revenue during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“Due to the nature of their operations, their only option has been cutbacks in spending and laying off staff. For others, keeping customers engaged through social media platforms is their only means of operating during the pandemic,” the survey noted.
Respondents were also asked if their employees accessed Government relief grants.
At the close of the survey on April 24, 34 per cent of respondents indicated their employees had indeed accessed government grants.
Foreign exchange shortages were exacerbated because of the COVID-19 crisis, the survey showed as several businesses indicated that their most urgent financing needs for recovery related to the availability of US currency.
The survey included 26 questions and was executed from April 20 to April 24, 2020. A total of 394 businesses across the country took part.
On March 31, the Government imposed a stay-at-home order for non-essential services. This order has been in effect for over one month and will continue until May 10, 2020.