Research commissioned by two United Nations (UN) agencies revealed that cash transfers from the government were the most effective form of aid for low-income households, who were hit harder by the recent pandemic, during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period.
But, many households' representative residing in Kuala Lumpur City Hall Projek Perumahan Rakyat (PPR) low-cost flats surveyed throughout the final week of MCO and the first week of the relaxation of movement restrictions showed that they favoured more sustainable assistance.
This finding is based on the "Families on the Edge" report by United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) that was conducted in cooperation with Malaysia-based public policy research firm DM Analytics.
Jobs, not handouts.
Though there were also requests for a more significant amount of aid, DM Analytics managing director Muhammed Abdul Khalid said many low-income homes surveyed wanted assistance that can have a more lasting effect on their livelihoods, such as equipment to start a burger stall, a place to sell goods or a microloan to start their own business.
"Cash handouts help, but one-off assistance is not sustainable. In particular, they want jobs. So it is not a [culture of asking for government handouts]. They are very proud, responsible, and rational people," said Muhammed.
More info on the study:
65% said that the Bantuan Prihatin Nasional (BPN) cash transfers are the most useful form of aid during the MCO,
20% said rent exemption was the most useful,
8% for six-month bank moratorium on loan repayments, and
7% for the i-Lestari withdrawals from their Employees Provident Fund (EPF) Account 2 savings.
Numerous low-income families surveyed wanted aid that can have a more lasting impact on their livelihoods
The survey also studied how many of the households received the following assistance:
89% received the BPN cash assistance,
67% received the rent exemption aid,
58% were accepted for i-Lestari, and
32% were accepted for the loan moratorium.
Higher unemployment across the board
The survey also found that low-income families in Kuala Lumpur were severely affected by the recent pandemic, with 25% of heads of households unemployed compared with the country's unemployment rate of 5.3% in May 2020.
The heads of households' total monthly median income also dropped by about one-third to about RM1,000 on average for June 2020, compared with an average of RM1,500 for December 2019, even though only 31% surveyed said they cut their working hours during the MCO.
Over 52% of heads of households did not receive social protection under the EPF or the Social Security Organisation. This issue raises concern for the current employment-based social protection system.
The situation was worse among female-headed households (such as single mothers), which the survey found to have higher rates of unemployment (32% vs 25%) and lower rates of social protection (57% unprotected vs 52%) relative to the average among low-income households.
About the study
The first instalment of the "Families on the edge" study seeks to offer critical insights for policymaking to lessen the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable groups, assessing changes in a range of indicators between December 2019 and the end of the MCO in May and June 2020.
A total of 500 heads of households were surveyed between May 27 and June 8 for the socio-economic portion while 30 families were polled between May 27 and June 2 for the general well-being portion. The households were selected from 16 of 56 PPR flats.
The households had 5.5 members each on average — 74% of whom had three to six members, and 65% had one or two children aged below 17.
"This report is the first snapshot of the situation of families living in urban low-cost flats in Malaysia. The report highlights the particular plight of women and children in female-headed households, which appear to have been badly affected by the crisis," said Marcela Suazo, representative of UNFPA in Malaysia.
"However, the report also highlights the resilience and dignity of these families, many of whom expressed their strong desire to rebuild their livelihoods. There are also highlights of increased shared responsibilities in the homes. Policy intervention such as Penjana has helped, but there is a need for more sustained support targeting the women and children who need it the most," she said.
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Source: The Edge Markets
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