Documenting the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Employers and Hiring

The COVID-19 crisis has disrupted economic activity worldwide. In developing countries, the effects are expected to be large; however, better data are needed to understand: 1) which firms are most affected; 2) which changes are expected to be temporary versus permanent; and 3) how to speed the recovery. Understanding the impact on firms as employers will be particularly important for supporting recovery. In the proposed project, Erica Field et al. will gather data on COVID-19 impacts on firms in an existing panel of employers, drawn from a representative city-wide listing of firms in Lahore, Pakistan. This sample includes smaller and larger, formal and informal firms, which allows the measurement of the effects of the pandemic on all types of employers and a comparison between different types of firms.

To describe the trajectory of the pandemic shock and recovery, this project builds on the researchers' existing infrastructure developed as part of the Job Talash programme. This dataset incorporates both survey and administrative data, allowing them to observe unusually detailed data on recruiting practices through the platform as well as detailed survey questions. The project will contribute to the creation of a panel dataset with monthly observations on search and hiring spanning the pre COVID, pandemic and recovery periods. This provides the opportunity to describe in great detail the trajectory of the shock and recovery using within-firm comparisons from before to during the pandemic, as well as over the recovery period using between-firm comparisons based on their randomized survey order. The project will also incorporate analysis of three ongoing randomised controlled trials of interventions intended to assist firms with recruitment over the year after the initial impact of the pandemic

Understanding the impact of the pandemic across different kinds of employers is key for informing responses to assist in labor market recovery. These surveys will document both the employment response as well as knowledge of and take-up of government assistance schemes across different kinds of employers, which will help to inform information dissemination efforts as well as adjustments to the targeting criteria of these schemes. As the project also tests several specific interventions that may help to speed firms’ return to hiring as the pandemic dissipates, if found to be effective, they could be extended or adapted. With the project's connections to the Centre for Economic Research in Pakistan, the researchers are able to engage with policymakers through mutliple platforms on policy responses to the crisis.