A lockdown index to assess the economic impact of the coronavirus

Swiss J Econ Stat. 2020;156(1):11. doi: 10.1186/s41937-020-00056-8. Epub 2020 Aug 28.


Like most countries, the Swiss government adopted drastic measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus. These measures were aimed at avoiding close physical proximity between people. The adverse economic consequences of this lockdown policy became immediately apparent, with almost two million workers, or more than every third worker in Switzerland, being put on short-time work within only 6 weeks after the policy's implementation. In an attempt to promptly assess the heterogeneous consequences of this lockdown policy, we computed a lockdown index. This index is based on an occupation's dependence on physical proximity to other people and corrected for certain essential sectors being exempt from this policy. We find that on average, 31% of jobs in Switzerland have been potentially restricted by the lockdown policy. This average masks considerable heterogeneity along many dimensions, with the strongest effects for the large industries hospitality, construction, and arts and entertainment. With respect to the regional variation, we find the strongest effects for the cantons of Obwalden, Uri, Appenzell Innerrhoden, and Valais. Moreover, low- and middle-income individuals are considerably more restricted than high-income ones. We do not find meaningful differences between men and women or urban and rural areas. Finally, we test the explanatory power of the lockdown index for short-time work and unemployment increases by canton and industry until the end of April 2020 and find that it can explain up to 58% of these short-term employment outcomes.

Keywords: Coronavirus; Employment; Lockdown; Short-time work.