Survey 5 of Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) Pacific Business Monitor has revealed that the negative impacts of COVID-19 on female-led businesses are increasing, with happiness and optimism declining and 92 per cent reporting a fall in revenue.

Despite this, Pacific businesses continue to adapt; an increasing number have scaled back operations, with fully operational female-led businesses decreasing to 23 per cent (down from 29 percent during Survey 4 of the PTI Pacific Business Monitor), and partially operational businesses increasing from 29 per cent to 41 per cent.

Commenting on the Survey 5 findings, PTI Australia Trade & Investment Commissioner Caleb Jarvis noted that the pandemic is biting hard for all businesses – particularly those led by women.

“Although the majority of the Pacific remains free of COVID-19, the economic impact of closed borders has been debilitating, especially for nations that are reliant on tourism – a sector with a high proportion of female employees,” said Caleb.

“Talking with businesses in the Pacific, many women are performing a juggling act – balancing work with being the primary care givers.”

The Survey 5 findings are in-line with the UN Secretary General’s Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on Women report, which found that women and girls globally are suffering more from the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 due to multiple factors including higher care responsibilities, home schooling, and the disproportionate lack of access to working capital and digital tools and skills.

With less than half of all Survey 5 respondents reporting that they have received government assistance during the pandemic, business owners are increasingly adopting measures to manage the impact of COVID-19, including reducing operational costs (66 per cent), reducing staff working hours (49 per cent), staff numbers (43 per cent) and wages (33 per cent).

Others have also pivoted to focus on selling and doing business online (22 per cent), while 17 per cent have sought rent reductions or relief. Most tellingly, all of these measures have so far been adopted by a larger percentage of female-led businesses.

“From capital to develop and export goods like coffee, to training and support with digital platforms, Pacific businesses – especially female-led businesses – are in urgent need of tangible support,” added Caleb.

In this environment, the mental health of respondents has also dipped to its lowest point since the start of the Pacific Business Monitor tracking, with 31 per cent of female-led businesses reporting that COVID-19 has had a ‘very negative’ impact on their mental health during Survey 5, compared to 14 per cent of male-led businesses.

Forty-five per cent of female-led businesses reported feeling worried ‘most of the time’ or ‘all of the time’, with levels of optimism and happiness also decreasing among all business owners surveyed compared to Survey 4.

“It’s a long road ahead, and it’s vital that we continue to champion the voice of businesses in the Pacific by continuing to provide the quantitative results to governments, donors and regional organisations so they can see the realities facing Pacific businesses,” said Caleb.

“We are actively using the results of the survey to inform and improve the effectiveness of our programs across the 16 Pacific nations we service. As a result of understanding what Pacific business require, PTI Australia has refined its e-Commerce connector series and to date we have delivered 13 workshops across the Pacific region to increase the digital capabilities of businesses. We developed our Digital Tourism COVID-19 Support Package and our new Learning Hub launched this week for tourism operators is another initiative that will support businesses to be more effective and successful operating in a digital economy.”

For more information about the Pacific Business Monitor and to access the Survey 5 findings, visit the PTI Australia:

About PTI Australia
Founded in 1979, PTI Australia is an agency of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. Funded by the Australian Government, it facilitates trade and investment in the Pacific Islands.