Policy Research Reports

Tunisia COVID-19 Country Case Study


SPRR 2022_3




June, 2022


I. Health

J2. Demand and Supply of Labor

J1. Demographic Economics

In a nutshell
  • At the beginning of the pandemic in spring 2020, Tunisia undertook a stringent lockdown, but substantially loosened its closure measures in summer 2020 (to levels well below the rest of North Africa).
  • Cases and deaths were below regional and global averages at the start of the pandemic and then large waves occurred in late 2020 and in 2021, particularly in July-August 2021. The acceleration of the vaccination campaign substantially attenuated the health crisis.
  • Tunisia, which already had a low GDP growth rate in 2019 (0.9 per cent), had an overall GDP contraction of 8.8 per cent for 2020. This contraction was mainly due to the spring lockdown but also to the trade openness of the Tunisian economy and its exposure to global value chains and tourism shocks.
  • There was an improvement in labor market indicators from November 2020 to June 2021. Increases in employment and labor force participation rates were driven by men in February and April 2021 and women in June 2021.
  • Household incomes improved from November 2020 to April 2021 and then deteriorated again in June 2021. The lower-income quartiles were hardest hit. The reversal in June 2021 was mainly driven by the deterioration of the income of the poorest quartile.
  • Informal wage workers outside establishments and self-employed individuals experienced the largest declines in their incomes. The decline in income has been more persistent for the self-employed.
  • The period from November 2020 to June 2021 was very difficult for farmers with fewer days worked, smaller harvests and lower expected prices. The main difficulties were access to inputs, likely due to the lockdown and financial reasons. The difficulty of disentangling the effects of the health and economic crisis from those of the drought that occurred over the same period must be kept in mind.
  • Microenterprises reported more closures from November 2020 to February 2021 and fewer thereafter. However, this improvement in operational status was not translated into higher incomes. Access to inputs and loss in demand substituted for access to customers as the main difficulties facing microenterprises.
  • Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) had fewer closures than microenterprises. Although closures were reduced in Quarter 2 of 2021, their income performance was much lower in Quarter 2 of 2021. The main difficulties faced by SMEs changed between Quarter 1 and Quarter 2 of 2021, with access to inputs becoming the main difficulty and worker absenteeism starting to impact their performance. A declining share of microenterprises reported adapting their business model over the first three waves but an increase in the share was observed in June 2021. For SMEs, adaptation of the business model was very low in the first quarter but substantially improved in the second. The main way to reduce physical contact with customers for microenterprises was the phone, while for SMEs, it was the web and social media.
  • Half of SMEs applied for and received government support, while only one fourth of microenterprises did. The most common form of support for SMEs was business loans and salary subsidies, while for microenterprises loans represented the bulk of the support. Government support dropped between Quarter 1 and Quarter 2 of 2021.
  • Only 10 to 15 per cent of households reported being food secure during the survey period. Between 50 and 60 per cent of households had to reduce meals and portions. The most common household coping strategies were spending their savings and relying on family support. Only one fifth of households received some form of government support. Government assistance was mainly targeted to the first and second quartiles of income and decreased over time.
  • Most children were back to school by February 2021. Online education was modest. The burden put on households, particularly on women, in terms of childcare increased with the return to classes.
  • The share of respondents worried about infection with COVID-19 increased substantially in June 2021, which was the worst wave in Tunisia. This concern with infection was in the opposite direction of precautionary behaviors, which were falling The proportion of respondents reporting low wellbeing, which was stable at high rates between February 2020 and April 2021, increased substantially in June 2021 following the deadly summer 2021 COVID-19 wave.

The webinars, reports and papers are supported by the project “Advancing the Decent Work Agenda in North Africa (ADWA’)”, implemented by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The project aims to promote job-rich growth, International Labour Standards (ILS) and their application at the enterprise level. It works at the policymaking level in order to support evidence-based decisions on key dimensions of the Decent Work Agenda. This project was made possible by the generous contributions of the International Labor Organization (ILO), Agence Française de Développement (AFD), The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the Government of the United Kingdom, the World Bank and the Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development (AFESD).
Tunisia COVID-19 Country Case Study

Research Fellows

Mohamed Ali Marouani

Associate Professor, Université Paris1-Panthéon-Sorbonne

Tunisia COVID-19 Country Case Study


Caroline Krafft

Associate Professor of Economics, St. Catherine University

Tunisia COVID-19 Country Case Study

Research Fellows

Ragui Assaad

Professor of Planning and Public Affairs, University...

Tunisia COVID-19 Country Case Study


Ruby Cheung

Economics Research Specialist, St. Catherine University