A new report by the Universal Postal Union (UPU), the UN specialized agency for postal matters, titled, “The COVID-19 crisis and the postal sector” shows postal volumes dropping by 21 percent in 2020. The steep decline is the largest seen by the UPU since it began recording exchanges of electronic data between its 192 member countries in 2010.
“The Post’s relevance has become clearer than ever as citizens reach out to them for essential services as they remain in their homes. While postal operators around the globe have continued to work diligently for their customers throughout the pandemic, they have also experienced many set-backs caused by the very measures put in place to stop the virus’ spread,” said UPU Director General Bishar A. Hussein.
According to the data, which covers the period between 23 January and 14 May, international postal volumes decreased by 21 percent in 2020 compared to the same period last year. Only one of every 2.1 items sent are arriving at their destination within the same week, as opposed to 1.1 during normal times.
The report lists transport disruptions, suspensions, capacity shortages and total stoppages, in addition to the impact of the virus on workforce capacity, as major factors blocking the supply chain. It also projects that negative income shocks on households could have a role to play in declining volumes.
Researchers used official postal statistics and indicators constructed from electronic data interchange messages on postal shipments exchanged between countries to paint a picture of the pandemic’s economic impact on the activities of postal operators.
In addition to the obvious decline in volumes, the report predicts three possible outcomes for postal operators around the globe, offering recommendations to help postal operators and policymakers mitigate long-term impacts and harness potential opportunities.
The first is a pessimistic scenario in which Posts are unable to fully recover. The second and most realistic scenario predicts that they will recover from the short-term impacts of COVID-19, but continue to face declining letter post volumes. The third possible outcome presents a more optimistic scenario in which postal operators are able to recover quickly and harness opportunities that would reverse long-term volume declines.
Which scenario Posts are most likely to face depends on a few important factors outlined in the report, including supply, the resilience of postal supply chains, the duration of public health measures taken against COVID-19, economic risk mitigation measures, consumers’ disposable income, the adoption of digital alternatives, and countries’ postal development.
To read the full report, please visit: www.upu.int/en/covid19report