The Welfare Consequences of Employer Responses to COVID-19 in Export Manufacturing in Low Income Countries

COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated the existing precarious working conditions in the export manufacturing industry in low-income countries. Using data from a phone survey, the study provides critical insights into COVID-19 responses of the employers in such workplaces and their effects on workers. This knowledge is crucial in understanding and designing policy responses to COVID-19 in low-income countries.

Researchers: Dr Khandker Wahedur Rahman, Dr Laura Boudreau, Dr Rachel Heath, and Md Raied Arman

Partners: University of Washington and Columbia University

Timeline: 2020–2021

Status: Completed

Method: Quantitative

Contact: Dr Khandker Wahedur Rahman;


Export manufacturing industries in low-income countries have long been characterized by their lack of occupational health and safety standards. The COVID-19 pandemic not only exposed the existing flaws within the industry but also stressed the system to take additional measures to protect workers’ lives and livelihoods. Understanding the reaction of large-scale manufacturing employers in low-income countries to COVID-19, therefore, is of urgent humanitarian and public health importance.


The objective of this study is to provide critical insights into COVID-19 responses of the employers in export manufacturies industries and their effects on workers. More specifically, it aims to investigate, among others, the rate of factory shutdowns, late repayment, and safety measures taken such as providing masks and safety guidelines to the workers, and their overall effects on the economic and social welfare of the workers.


Due to the imposed COVID-19 restrictions, the study uses a phone survey to collect data. Using a snowball sampling technique, we surveyed 2,800 workers from multiple export manufacturing factories.

Findings and Recommendations