In a globalized world, pandemics transmit impacts through markets. In this study, researchers document employment changes, coping strategies, and welfare of garment factory workers in Ethiopia’s largest industrial park during the early stages of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 pandemic. Researchers field a phone survey of female workers during a two month period in which cases are rapidly rising globally, but not locally. The data suggest significant changes in employment, high levels of migration away from urban areas to rural areas if women are no longer working, and high levels of food insecurity. These findings compel a research and policy focus on documenting and mitigating the market-reach of pandemics on low-income workers at the margins.

Program Area:
Study Type:
Quasi-experimental Analysis
April-November 2020
Implemented by IPA:
Impact Goals:
Build resilient and adaptable businesses and employment opportunities; Improve social-safety net responses; Improve women’s health, safety, and economic empowerment
Outcomes of Interest:
Basic demographics, current and past employment, other economic activity, income, savings, physical and mental health, health behaviors, social networks, relationship status, marriage and fertility choices, aspirations, first- and second-order beliefs about COVID-19, trust in government, perceived needs in the community, and economic preferences
Data Collection Mode:
CATI (Computer-assisted telephone interviewing)
External Website:
Results Status:
Key Findings:
  • The employment of female workers in Ethiopia’s garment industry has changed dramatically due to a sharp drop in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • In the sample, 41 percent of respondents employed in January 2020 were put on leave or terminated by the time of our survey a few months later.
  • Migration appears to be a major coping mechanism, but many respondents report barriers. Most who have left the city desire to return if possible.
  • Levels of food insecurity are high; rates are higher for those currently still in the city where garment industry jobs are located.
  • Respondents are well informed about COVID-19; false beliefs or myths appear to be extremely uncommon.