This was an extraordinary week in terms of both quantity and quality of action! Lot’s of news from the Country social protection COVID responses_April3, here clustered around 6 stylized facts…
Fact #1. As of today, a total of 106 countries have introduced or adapted social protection and jobs programs in response to COVID-19. This is an 26% increase since last week (when countries were 84), while the number of programs grew by almost 50%, i.e., from 283 to 418. Among classes of interventions, social assistance (non-contributory transfers) keeps being the most widely used (including a total of 241 programs), followed by actions in social insurance (116) and supply-side labor market interventions (61).
Fact #2. Within social assistance, cash transfer programs are clearly the most widely used intervention by governments: these include 124 programs in 71 countries, with 54 new initiatives introduced specifically as COVID-19 response in 36 countries. Those 124 programs would increase to 149 if social pensions, public works, childcare support and one-off universal basic income (or helicopter money) are considered. Such overall cash-based portfolio represents over one-third of total social protection programs (35.6%) (see pie below) and 61.8% of social assistance schemes.
Fact #3. More data points on coverage levels are also starting to emerge, especially in social assistance. A preliminary estimate of the number of beneficiaries specifically supported via COVID-related introductions, expansions, and adaptations of programs is 594 million. Those beneficiaries include both individuals (for programs like public works) and households (e.g., for conditional cash transfers), pending on how they are reported. On one hand, such estimate is conservative given that not all programs report coverage (especially planned schemes); on the other hand, the estimate also includes schemes for which programs envisioned administrative adaptations, such as providing the same level of benefits but paid in a more user-friendly way. Clearly, global coverage levels are largely driven by India, but sizable levels can be observed in several countries, especially in Asia.
Fact #4. In terms of social insurance, paid sick leave is the most frequently-adopted measure, including in countries like Algeria, El Salvador, Finland and Lebanon. Unemployment benefits are also widely used, including for example in Romania, Russia, and South Africa. Deferring or subsidizing social contributions are observed in Montenegro, Germany and the Netherlands among others.
Fact #5. Labor market interventions are another key way in which governments are providing support to formal and informal sector workers (i.e., we don’t include demand-side actions on the labor markets). Wage subsidies account for 59% of the global labor market portfolio, with programs being implemented in Jamaica, Kosovo, Malaysia and Thailand. Activation measures (worker trainings) are also being considered inter alia in Bosnia and Herzegovina, China and Romania.
Fact #6. Compared to last week, programs are less unevenly distributed across regions and country income groups. Importantly, measures are being introduced in low-income countries, although only on social assistance and insurance. In those contexts, social assistance measures mostly include administrative adaptations, in-kind transfers, school feeding, and utility waivers. As such, there appears to be very limited cash transfer program expanded or introduced (Tajikistan is one example).
Hope this helps for your work, and stay safe!
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.