Low income urban families at breaking point: UN study

by AZREEN HANI/ pic by ARIF KARTONO

LOW income urban families in Kuala Lumpur continued to be affected with the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, with unemployment rate among head of households doubled to 15% in December.

A survey by United Nations agencies UNICEF and UNFPA undertaken in December 2020 during the conditional movement control order (CMCO) found that the socio-economic conditions for around half of the households surveyed continue to deteriorate.

“The latest data from Families on the Edge suggests that while some families have started to recover, others have continued to deteriorate and, at the outset of MCO 2.0, were close to breaking point,” said Dr Rashed Mustafa Sarwar, Representative for UNICEF in Malaysia and Special Representative to Brunei Darussalam in a statement today.

“We need to reimagine social protection for the most vulnerable in Malaysia, including through an expansion of coverage of income support for low income families, provision of targeted livelihoods support, particularly for the self-employed.

We have extended our support to the government and look forward to working together to strengthen policies and programmes for families in need,” he added.

Among other findings in the study included that 1 in 3 adults in participating households remain unemployed.

Income levels among female-headed households and households headed by persons with disabilities (PWD) are now 24% and 36% lower respectively than at the end of 2019.

The continued reduction in income experienced by a large proportion of study participants resulted in persistent poverty among this group.

The poverty rate among the study sample stood at 42% in December, with higher rates among PWD-headed households (55%), and female- headed households (61%).

Additionally, many households whose earnings are somewhat above the official poverty line are experiencing difficulties in meeting their basic needs.

Part 3 of the Families on the Edge report is based on a third round of data collection conducted by the Families on the Edge project in December 2020 during the CMCO, before MCO 2.0 that started on January 13th, 2021 was imposed.

“The social dynamics of these families on the edge are changing as they do their best to cope with the worsening economic situation.

“With increased pessimism further exacerbating mental health issues, it begins to shape unhealthy living environments; psychologically and sometimes physically. None are more affected than children,
those with chronic illnesses, the disabled and of course those who care for them,” Najib Assifi, UNFPA Representative in Malaysia said.


Read our previous report here:

Aid needed to offset RM20b losses during MCO 2.0