Well, a links edition without links? Of course not… they are all included in a new note. And what is that about? It’s the first global review of social protection responses to COVID-19. The analysis is organized by social assistance, social insurance and labor market programs, and provides a comprehensive – but still preliminary – information-base of country-level actions.
This is won’t be a one-off special edition. For the foreseeable future, the weekly links will turn into a temporary “situation room” to inform and update on how countries are responding to the pandemic by leveraging, adapting or introducing new social protection measures. But sure, will also start gradually reincluding papers and links in the traditional format.
So what did we find in the review?
- As of March 20, 2020, a total of 45 countries have introduced, adapted or expanded social protection programs in response to COVID-19. Responses are present in all regions, except Africa.
- The most widely used measures include cash transfers (30 programs), followed by wage subsidies (11), subsidized sick leave (10), and various forms of subsidized social security contributions and unemployment insurance.
- A total of 13 new cash transfer programs have been introduced, like for example in Bolivia, India, Iran and Peru. A universal, one-off cash payment to all citizens will occur in Hong-Kong and Singapore. New in-kind schemes have also been launched, such as food vouchers in Taiwan and Seattle in the United States.
- Countries are adapting existing social assistance programs in various ways, by for instance:
- anticipating payments of future cash transfer programs, like in Colombia and Indonesia;
- ensuring additional payments, often on a one-off basis (e.g., Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Turkey);
- providing more generous benefit levels (e.g., China);
- increasing the coverage of existing cash schemes (e.g., Brazil) and public works (Uzbekistan);
- enhancing agility by suspending conditionalities in the UK and Italy;
- providing innovative design solutions, such as school feeding programs delivering food directly to children’s homes or nearby centers (Jamaica and India’s Kerala state) or adapting their financing (Japan).
- Income support in the form of childcare vouchers or allowances were provided in Italy, Poland and South Korea. Other social assistance programs include support for homeless populations as planned in Spain; utility subsidies waiving fees for basic services are present in El Salvador; and wavers for loans and other financial obligations (e.g., Bolivia).
- Many countries provide cash benefits to crisis-affected self-employed workers (e.g., Ireland, Portugal, New Zealand) and those in the informal sector (India).
- Some countries (e.g., Netherland) are reducing work time among the wage employed, combined with paid sick leave.
- Sweden is reducing the administrative time required for sick-leave payments, while Switzerland is doing so for the unemployment insurance process.
- Delivery innovations are also emerging in Jordan (new cash program using same registration form of existing schemes), Japan (uploading transfers on phones), and Romania (enhanced electronic processes for benefits).
Please check out the paper for a country-by-country examination of such measures. The report is coauthored with Mohamed Almenfi and Ian Orton; produced in close coordination with Penny Williams and Lansong Zhang; and benefited from precious contributions by Aysenur Acar, Stefanie Brodmann, Yoonyoung Cho, Facundo Cuevas, Melin Ed, Maliha Fanning, Sabina Guliyeva, Su Su Htay, Adina-Maria Iorganda, Alex Kamurase, Sandor Karacsony, Francesca Lamanna, Mattias Lundberg, Mattia Makovic, Alessandra Marini, Karla Mcevoy, Khalid Moheyddeen, Matteo Morgandi, Mirey Ovadiya, Efsan Ozen, Juul Pinxten, Manuel Salazar, Indhira Santos, Achim Schmillen, Sirma Seker, Dewen Wang, and Briana Wilson.
Ugo Gentilini is from the World Bank’s Social Protection & Jobs global practice. The Social Protection Links newsletter, issued every Friday, distills and discusses a selection of curated resources on the topic, from academic articles to podcasts. The blog is republished on socialprotection.org each week, offering knowledge on social protection to helps you stay on top of it — succinctly, regularly and frequently. Previous editions can be found here.