COVID-19 Socio-Economic Impact Assessment in Bahrain

February 3, 2021

Updated on August 16, 2021

About the SEIA Initiative:

After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and under the lead of the UN Resident Coordinator and the United Nations Development Programme in Bahrain, the United Nations in Bahrain finalized the “UN COVID-19 socio-economic response and recovery framework for Bahrain”. Soon after the Government sought UNDP’s support to lead a COVID-19 Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (SEIA). The initiative took off as a joint collaboration between UNDP Bahrain and the Bahrain Center for Strategic, International and Energy Studies (Derasat), the most prestigious national think tank in Bahrain.

Funded through UNDP’s Rapid Response Facility, a global vertical funding window targeted to COVID-19 response work, the SEIA was set up as a dynamically structured platform implemented through a joint DERASAT-UNDP team of experts, with mutually enforcing products, including surveys, analytical reports, interviews, and roundtable discussions with multiple stakeholders.

The main objectives of the SEIA in Bahrain are listed below:

  1. Providing rigorous assessments of the main socio-economic effects of COVID-19 in Bahrain, as well as of the responses to the pandemic
  2. Establish a platform that facilitates the delivery of such assessments at regular intervals.
  3. Contributing to a wider use of research and evidence-based policy in the country.
  4. Improving national homegrown capacity to conduct socio-economic impact assessments.
  5. Strengthen cooperation between UNDP, Derasat, and other governmental and non-governmental organizations nationally and internationally.

SEIA Research Overview:

In September, under the umbrella of the SEIA, a national household perceptions survey on COVID-19 was carried out, highlighting migrant workers' and women's economic hardship. The survey targeted migrant workers living in Bahrain, particularly Bangladeshis, who represent the lowest skilled expatriate workers. The results showed with unprecedented clarity how these groups have been hit the hardest economically from the pandemic and the related restrictions and economic contraction.

Under the SEIA, the technical team also analyzed the impact of COVID-19 on financial transactions and consumer behavior, the private sector, and mental and physical health. A special thanks to private sector actors who contributed to these studies, including 3BL Associates, Bahrain Airport Company, Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance (BIBF), Bahrain SMEs Society, Central Bank of Bahrain, and KPMG Bahrain. This work would also not have been possible without the technical contributions of UNEP, UNESCO, UNICEF, UN Women, IOM, and WHO, who provided technical support and advice on the quality of surveys and studies carried out under this project.

Below is a comprehensive list of all products published under the SEIA project in collaboration with Derasat, with links to each individual product. More components of the SEIA are expected to be developed in 2021 covering impact on environment, education, gender, and youth.

Watch this space for periodical updates of new products as they are published.

Reports Published Under the SEIA Collaboration:

  1. An Assessment of the Socio-Economic Impact of Covid-19 in Bahrain: Analysis of survey data from Bahrain and comparative surveys from the UK and the US

    This report analyses the socio-economic impacts of Covid-19 on communities in Bahrain, with information gathered from comparatively surveying the opinions of 3,000 individuals in 3 countries (Bahrain, the UK, and the US) on the impact of the pandemic on income, jobs, youth, gender, time utilization, psychology, and support preferences. The survey reached four respondent groups: 700 Bahrainis living in Bahrain, 300 Bangladeshis living in Bahrain, 1,000 members of the UK population living in the UK, and 1,000 members of the US population living in the US.

    The results of the survey showed that all four groups suffered considerable amounts of self-reported economic distress, with Bahrainis in Bahrain suffering the least amount and Bangladeshis in Bahrain suffering the greatest amount.

    The survey also showed that all four groups reported considerable changes in their allocation towards non-work tasks: Bangladeshis in Bahrain increased the time they allocated to job search and supplementing their incomes, thus leading to less time allocated to non-work activities. Meanwhile, women in the 25-44 age category across demographic groups allocated significantly more time than their male counterparts to assisting children and the elderly.

    More details on the survey findings and analysis can be found by viewing the report here.

  2. The Impact of Covid-19 on Financial Transactions and Consumer Behavior in Bahrain: An Initial Analysis

    This report examines data on the number and value of financial transactions in the Kingdom of Bahrain, for the period between January 2019 to June 2020, aiming to analyze the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on various aspects of consumer behavior. This includes the pandemic’s effect on overall purchases, purchases per sector, consumer prices, and changes to various payment methods.

    The analysis showed that the Covid-19 pandemic had significant negative impacts on financial transactions and consumer behavior, as of June 2020. First, retail activity saw a significant decrease during this period, as reflected by point of sale transactions. Second, household consumption was significantly restructured during this time, with a renewed emphasis on consumption that can occur within homes (food, furniture, entertainment, telecommunications) at the expensive of goods and services that occur outside the home (hotels, clothing, travel). Third, residents of Bahrain have shifted away from cash towards contactless mobile payment methods over this period.

    More details on the above and further findings can be found in the report here.

  3. The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on the Bahrain Private Sector: Proceedings from a Roundtable Discussion

    In early November 2020, as part of the SEIA, UNDP Bahrain and Derasat convened a small group of private sector representatives and other experts to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on Bahrain’s private sector. This report presents the major issues discussed during the roundtable and presents a series of recommendations targeting businesses and policymakers.

    Several key points were made during the discussion, including the positive impacts that the fiscal stimulus and monetary policy had on avoiding a Covid-19 related economic downturn in Bahrain, as well as the long-term implications that this crisis might have on the private sector if proper preparation and planning is not taken. To counter these implications, recommendations surrounding digital transformation, strategic planning post-pandemic, and green growth were discussed.

    You can view the report by clicking here.

  4. Physical and Mental Well-being and the Role of Telemedicine During the Covid-19 Pandemic in Bahrain

    This report examines the effect that Covid-19 and its subsequent confinement has had on people’s lives as well as their physical and mental well-being. The report relied on in-depth interviews with a sample of health professionals and telemedicine users to gather qualitative evidence on the impact of Covid-19 on physical and mental health, on the effectiveness of telemedicine as an alternative strategy for accessing healthcare services in Bahrain during the pandemic, and on how telemedicine practices can be improved in the future.

    This research report showed that the Covid-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the lives and physical and mental wellbeing of the Bahraini population in several ways, including on their ability to manage their lifestyles, ability to manage their chronic diseases, and on their mental health, particularly for individuals aged 18-45 years old.

    For more details, you can view the report by clicking here.

  5. Remote Work in the Bahraini Public Sector During the Covid-19 Pandemic: Proceedings of a Roundtable

    This report, a joint effort between Derasat, the Bahrain Institute of Public Administration, and UNDP Bahrain, summarizes the main points discussed in a roundtable discussion with Bahraini employees working in the public sector, on the topic of remote work in the Bahraini public sector.

    The report found several benefits from working from home, among which were reduced time lost in commuting, morning anxiety, unnecessary meetings, and socializing. Gains were also made in general mental wellbeing and productivity, improved and more flexible time management, and adoption of technological solutions that increased staff productivity.

    You can read the full report by clicking here.

  6. An Assessment on the Impacts of Loan Deferrals in Bahrain

    In March 2020, March 2020, and subsequently in September 2020 and January 2021, the Central Bank of Bahrain instructed banks operating in the Kingdom of Bahrain to offer Bahraini debtors the opportunity to defer the repayment of loans and, in the first of these three deferral decisions, to do so without incurring any interest. This paper analyses the impact of the first two of these three deferrals on Bahraini households using a combination of quantitative and qualitative data gathered from telephone surveys with over 100 Bahrainis. It also presents recommendations for future decisions.

    You can read the full report by clicking here.


  7. A Review of the Role of Digital Solutions for the Private Sector During the Covid-19 Pandemic in Bahrain

    This report, developed with Gulf Future Business, WorkSmart, and Virtual Bahrain, reviews the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on digital solutions in the private sector in Bahrain. A survey was administered too 500+ attendees of Virtual Bahrain, the largest digital event in Bahrain, and follow up focus groups were conducted with 25 decision makers and managers to understand their experience responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.

    The results of this research and the full report can be accessed here.



  8. Report on the Impact of COVID-19 on the Environment

    In addition to its sizeable direct effect on public health, the Covid-19 pandemic is also having an impact on a wide array of socioeconomic variables, which in turn are affecting the environment. Many studies of these effects have been conducted either at the global level, or for key economies such as China and the US. However, the Kingdom of Bahrain merits special attention due to its geography (it is a small, arid, densely populated archipelago) and its economic structure (it has a high dependence on hydrocarbons and on tourism). This paper explores the effect that the Covid-19 pandemic is having on the environment in the Kingdom of Bahrain using qualitative data garnered from interviews with 14 experts on the Bahraini environment working in government, the academic sector, the private sector, and the non-profit sector. It also presents policy recommendations in light of these findings.

    The report can be accessed here.

  9. Report on the Impact of COVID-19 on Women

    Coming soon.