How is it like living as an urban poor during Covid-19?

urban poverty Kuala Lumpur

Based on a survey of 500 households in Kuala Lumpur’s Program Perumahan Rakyat (PPR) flats, unemployment has doubled between September and December 2020[1]. The survey conducted by UNICEF and UNFPA Malaysia shows that 15% of heads of households have lost their job in December 2020 compared to 7% in September 2020. This alarming rate may have severe affects to the health and socio-economic status of these families.

urban poverty Kuala Lumpur
Source: New Straits Times

Poverty Rate On A High During MCO

This study identified that poverty rate for these families is at 42%. For context, Kuala Lumpur’s incidence of overall absolute poverty is 0.2% in 2019[2]. The rate among female led households and person(s) with disabilities (PWD) led households are more alarming with 60% and 50% of poverty rate respectively[1]. This means that 6 out of 10 female led households and 5 out of 10 PWD led households earn below RM2,208 per month.

urban poverty Kuala Lumpur
Source: SAYS

No Savings For Rainy Day

This situation is exacerbated due to the lack of savings of this households. When the pandemic struck, these families were living closer to the edge due and it was discovered that 7 in 10 households have no savings and it is worse for female-led and PWD-led households (8 out of 10)[1].

Because of that, 3 in 5 households are finding it difficult to purchase essential items[1]. Again, this is made more difficult for female-led or PWD-led households. More than 50% are unable to purchase food and pay their bills on time.

urban poverty Kuala Lumpur
Source: Leaders Online

Aided by the Government

The relief provided by the Malaysian government has contributed to 16% of their total household income, which has doubled compared to pre-covid days[1]. This provides a much needed breathing space, however, it still shows the need to further relief and social safety nets, especially for the self-employed needs to be further expanded.

Urban Poverty Kuala Lumpur
Source: Today Online

From those that was surveyed, 2 in 3 of self-employed household members worked in informal sectors; not registered with Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM) and 80% of them do not have permit or license from the local authorities to do business[1]. Only 5% of these self-employed are registered with either EPF or SOCSO[1].

Here are some ways the government is responding to help the B40.

Changemakers needed on the ground

Based on observations, here is what changemakers on the ground could help contribute:

  1. Urgent financial relief and aid for the urban poor, especially with food and essential items
  2. Help the self employed to digitise their business and leverage on technology.
  3. For longer term measure, financial literacy education will be crucial in managing further rainy days.

Explore our sources:

  1. UNICEF & UNFPA (February 2021). Families on the Edge | Fact sheet. Link
  2. Department of Statistics Malaysia (2020). Household Income & Basic Amenities Survey Report 2019 Link

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