Facebook has published a new report which looks at the impact of COVID-19, and the global lockdowns to limit its spread, on SMBs in various regions.
The report incorporates responses from more than 30,000 small business owners across 50 countries, and highlights the key concerns and challenges they face as each seeks to maintain operations. The insight provided is important for virtually every organization, as the flow-on effects will relate to spending in almost all aspects, and will have far-reaching economic effects.
You can download the full, 49-page report at this link, but here’s a look at some of the key notes and charts.
First off, Facebook notes that the job crisis is ongoing, and likely to carry on for some time, even after the pandemic.
As per Facebook:
“One third of small businesses surveyed reported a workforce reduction as a result of the pandemic, and 26% of businesses around the world had to entirely shut down their operations from January to May. In some countries, 50% of businesses had to close.”
The data shows that tourism and event-related businesses have been the hardest hit, with 54% of tourism agencies and 47% of hospitality and event small businesses reporting almost total shutdowns. That said, all sectors have reported significant sales impacts.
Those impacts are also universal, with all regions reporting similar levels of impact across their small business sectors.
Which, inevitably, impacts their capacity to pay staff – and while most have reported that they’ve been able to keep the same number of staff on their books, largely due to government subsidies, some regions have been forced into significant reductions.
Yet, despite the bleak data, Facebook also reports that most business owners remain optimistic.
“Nearly three quarters (74%) of businesses that were closed at the time of the survey expect to reopen as lockdown measures continue to lift.”
Which is a positive, yet as some regions are seeing, the risk of a second wave will also have an impact, with various cities and states forced back into lockdown as case numbers spike after initial easing. That will make it a tough going for some time yet – but the fact that business owners, overall, remain positive is a good sign for eventual recovery.
At the same time, many have also turned to online options to maintain their operations.
“For example, in 20 In 49 of the 54 countries in the sample, at least one-third of SMBs indicated that they had earned a minimum of 25% of their sales from digital channels in the previous 30 days. In 15 of the countries surveyed, more than one-half of businesses were making at least 25% of their sales online. More than 60% of businesses are meeting this threshold in Singapore (62%) Canada (64%), Ireland (65%), and Russia (65%).”
That’s significant, both in the immediate and longer-term. As more people come to realize the benefits of shopping online, that will lead to new, habitual behaviors. eCommerce has long been on the rise either way, and the lockdowns will only exacerbate that shift. The impacts, then, will also extend to employment, as fewer businesses need as many staff to continue their operations, as well as the need for digital marketing expertise. If or how those trends will offset each other, at least to some degree, will be an important element to monitor.
Overall, Facebook’s report presents a fairly downbeat view of the current state, though hope remains that we can get back to normal at some stage. Significant challenges will remain for some time yet, and new trends will emerge as a result – but as noted, the impacts listed here will be felt across the entire economy.
SMBs make up a huge amount of business activity, and without them, we all lose out. That’s why it’s important to support your local business where you can, while for business owners, it’s important to note the trends and perceptions in your own approach.
You can read Facebook’s full ‘Global State of Small Business Report’ here.
Jailed Saudi woman tweeter shrugged off risk: friend
Image: – © AFP/File DOMINICK REUTER
A Saudi woman given 34 years in prison for tweets critical of the government knew people were informing on her but did not take it seriously, a friend said Thursday.
Salma al-Shehab, a member of the Shiite minority in the Sunni-ruled kingdom, had been studying for a doctorate in Britain and was arrested in January 2021 while on holiday.
On August 9 she was sentenced to 34 years in jail for aiding dissidents seeking to “disrupt public order” in the kingdom by relaying their tweets.
A friend of Shehab, who asked not to be identified for her own security, said she had not taken threats of denunciation seriously.
“We discussed people harassing her on Twitter and reporting her tweets to the security services online,” the friend told AFP.
“She didn’t think the authorities would be interested in someone with less than 2,000 followers,” she added.
Shehab now has around 3,000 followers on Twitter.
A mother of two and a PhD candidate at Britain’s University of Leeds, School of Medicine, she was also banned from travelling abroad for a further 34 years as part of the sentence.
The oil-rich Gulf state has cracked down on rights activists, many of whom have been jailed and banned from travel.
Women’s rights activists have also been targeted.
The crackdown increased after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler in 2017.
The authorities have made available an app called “Kollona Amn” (Arabic for “We are all security”) which allows “all citizens and residents in Saudi Arabia to play the role of police officer”.
It is used to report accidents or crimes — but can also be a tool to denounce political opponents.
Shehab tweeted mostly about women’s rights in the conservative country.
She was jailed just weeks after US President Joe Biden visited Saudi Arabia, a controversial trip because of the kingdom’s human rights record.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Wednesday that Washington regularly raised the issue of human rights with Riyadh.
“Exercising freedom of expression to advocate for the rights of women should not be criminalised,” he said.
Rights group Amnesty International has called for Shehab’s immediate and unconditional release. It described her jailing as “outrageous”.
On its website, the University of Leeds said in a statement it was “deeply concerned” by the development, “and are seeking advice on whether there is anything we can do to support her”.
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