Multidimensional Vulnerability Index for Bhutan reveals senior citizens (above 60) and children (below 10) are the most vulnerable to covid-19
It is clear that the nature of the pandemic has had a differentiated effect in different population groups, and it is also evident now that the potential adverse effects of the pandemic are unevenly distributed across the country and age-groups.
A Multidimensional Vulnerability Index for Bhutan reveal that some groups are being hit stronger depending either on individual characteristics (such as age, the sector of activity and type of occupation), family characteristics (like the number of earners in the family), or simply location.
For instance, families with employed members in the tourism sector immediately experienced the consequences of lower economic activity due to the closure of international borders.
Similarly, households with school aged children are now dealing with the education of their children. Differently, from previous periods of economic uncertainty, the associated effects of the current pandemic are spreading over the population (i.e. not necessarily affecting only the most deprived population groups).
This differentiated effect of the pandemic requires clear diagnostics to increase the impact of public interventions through targeted interventions addressed to the poorest and the most vulnerable members of the society.
The incidence of multidimensional vulnerability is 18.3%, so nearly one-fifth of people in Bhutan is multidimensionally vulnerable to the adverse effects of the pandemic.
The average intensity of vulnerability is 31.2%, implying that each vulnerable person is, on average, deprived in nearly a third of the weighted indicators.
The rural vulnerability headcount ratio is much higher compared to the one for urban areas – 27% versus 3.6%, respectively.
It is worth noticing that almost 62% of Bhutan’s population live in rural areas (nearly 372 thousand population).
Nearly 10% of the population in Bhutan is 60 years or older but almost a third is multidimensionally vulnerable. This means that older population not only carries the largest risk in terms of the catastrophic consequences of getting infected, but also in terms of this multidimensional approach.
This information reveals that elder population requires priority actions as this is the age group more likely to be hit by the adverse effects of the pandemic. Similarly, nearly one-third of the population of Bhutan – 32.5% – are children under 18 years of age.
They are the second group most vulnerable social group in relative terms (as percentage of that population group). In particular the children of primary school age (0-9) are the most vulnerable among children.
Conversely, the less vulnerable group, again in relative terms, is the working-age population in particular those between 18-39.
In Bhutan the majority of population is women (51.3%) and 18.6% of them is multidimensionally vulnerable. This is nearly 56.6 thousand vulnerable women.
In the case of men, the percentage of vulnerable population is slightly smaller 17.9%. The intensity of deprivation in both groups is slightly the same (A around 31%) and because of this the MVI for women population is slightly larger (0.058) than that for men (0.056.
The most multidimensionally vulnerable groups are households with an uneducated head (without no formal education) which covers 55% of the total population.
Nearly 28% of these households are vulnerable with an overall MVI of 0.091, which is almost twice as large as the national MVI (0.057).
The group with the lowest levels of vulnerability is households with potential returnees living abroad (this is, households with family members living abroad).
Nearly 8% of the Bhutanese population lives in a household with a potential returnee where roughly one out of 10 is MVI vulnerable.
Gasa and Samtse are two Dzongkhags with the highest vulnerability profile are in the west borders of Bhutan.
In Gasa, 36% of the population is MVI vulnerable whereas in Samtse, over the Indian border, this percentage is nearly 31%.
These two Dzongkhag are respectively the least and the most populated Dzongkhag in Bhutan.
Three Dzongkhag ranked third: Zhemgang, Dagana and Samdrup Jongkhar. In all of them the percentage of MVI population is nearly 30%. In the remaining 15 Dzongkhag the vulnerability incidence is below 25%.
The incidence of multidimensional vulnerability in large cities is below 10%. The largest incidence in relative terms is in Samdrup Jongkhar Thromde which is also the smallest city in terms of population (with respect of the three other Thromde.
In this city the MVI (0.007) is considerably smaller than the national MVI. The bulk of vulnerable population is out of these large cities.
Key findings and suggestions
The lack of Connectivity for Education (a computer device and internet) appears amongst the most prevalent deprivation indicators.
This applies for both the general population and among the population that is multidimensionally deprived: 32% of the population for the uncensored headcount ratio (i.e. the proportion of people deprived in each indicator) and 10.5 for the censored headcount ratio (i.e. the proportion of people deprived in each indicator and vulnerable).
It further reveals that the incidence of multidimensional vulnerability shows that nearly one-fifth of population is prone to be affected by the adverse effects of the pandemic (multidimensionally vulnerable).
In terms of age, the most vulnerable population groups are elder population and children of school age under 10.
Further, the study reveals that the rural vulnerability headcount ratio is much higher than that for urban areas – 27% versus 3.6%, respectively. This pattern is relevant given that nearly 62% of the population live in rural areas.
“The largest multidimensionally vulnerable population group is characterized by the households with an uneducated head. This is relevant given that more than half of the population live in these households,” the report underlines.
In terms of geographic disaggregation, the analysis shows that two of Dzongkhag with the highest vulnerability profile are in the west borders of Bhutan: Gasa (with 36% of the population being multidimensionally vulnerable) and Samtse, over the Indian border, with 31% of vulnerable population.
With some exceptions, many of the Gewogs with the highest MVI levels are close to some borderline although it is also truth that some Gewogs over the Indian border have some of the lowest levels of MVI.
Lastly, the study revealed that the north-eastern borders of Bhutan have the lowest levels of MVI. This northeast quadrant of Bhutan displays the lowest multidimensional vulnerability levels.