Online purchasing and work from home had doubled in Sri Lanka and many people stocked more foods than earlier while those in informal employment were hardest hit in getting income and accessing food, during Coronavirus curfews, a survey shows.

Before the Covid-19 only 21 percent of those surveyed said the employer allowed them to work from but it had doubled to 46 percent during curfews, a survey commissioned by Amal Kumarage, Professor at the Department of Transport and Logistics at the University of Moratuwa, Mavin De Silva and H Niles Perera found.

“Of this, 35 percent were working all 5 days or more which was a significant increase from the 8 percent previously,” the study said.

“However, there were very few people who worked for less than 5 days. It appears that while some people were fully engaged working from home, others were not engaged at all.”

The degree of impact on income showed a strong relationship (92 percetn R squared) with the percentage of population engaged in informal employment.

“An almost identical relationship was observed for the impact on accessing essential items indicating that those in informal employment were the worst affected in both the loss of income and in facing difficulties in accessing essentials items,” the researchers said.

“This could be due to lack of employment status and inability to get online services, credit, etc. commonly associated with informal and temporary employment.”

Respondents said they stocked up more goods than before the curfews. Earlier people who had 3 to 4 days of perishables and proteins increased it to 4 to 5 days.

Dry goods stocks increased from 8 days to 14 days, and medicines from 13 days to 19 days.

People also used online services more, though gains were smaller in banking and medical services where they were already using such services.

“The largest gains were however in the purchase of dry goods, perishables, and medicine where the use of online services was reported as being doubled or tripled,” the researchers said.

“In the case of online purchases, there is less evidence that people would continue to use them one month after curfew was lifted and even less so after one year indicating that the increase is unlikely to be sustained under normal circumstances.”

The most frequent method of purchasing perishables and proteins was from street vendors but visiting the outlet physically was the most frequent method of purchasing essentials