The 6th edition of the living paper is out! (For download: Country SP COVID responses_April23)

As of April 23, 2020, a total of 151 countries (18 more since last week) have planned, introduced or adapted 684 social protection measures in response to COVID-19. This is a ten-fold increase in measures since the first edition of this living paper (March 20). New countries include Angola, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Belarus, Bermuda, Brunei, Chad, Grenada, Libya, Montserrat, Nigeria, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Seychelles, St Maarten, and UAE.

Social assistance transfers are the most widely used class of interventions (60% of global responses, or 412 measures). These are complemented by significant action in social insurance and labor market-related measures (supply-side measures). Among safety nets, cash transfer programs remain the most widely used safety net intervention by governments. Overall, cash transfers include 222 COVID-related measures representing one-third (32.4%) of total COVID-related social protection programs.

Cash transfers include a mix of both new and pre-existing programs of various duration and generosity. About half (47%) of cash transfers are new programs in 78 countries (reaching 512.6 million people), while one-fifth (22%) of measures are one-off payments. The average duration of transfers is 2.9 months. The size of transfers is relatively generous, or one-fifth (22%) of monthly GDP per capita in respective countries. On average, this is an increase of 86.6% compared to average pre-COVID transfer levels (where data is available for a subset of countries).

Cash transfers are being adapted to COVID-19 response in three ways. This includes expanding coverage, increasing benefits, and making administrative requirements simpler and more user-friendly. Combined, those adaptations benefit over 1.36 billion people. Specifically for cash transfers, Administrative adaptations are occurring in 25 countries. For example, anticipation of payments that due at later date (e.g., Malaysia); flexibility in the time of collection (e.g., Algeria); home delivery of cash for seniors (e.g., Armenia); postponement of recertification (e.g., Georgia); and waiving of conditionalities (e.g., Philippines). Increases in benefits among preexisting programs are implemented in up to 33 countries, including transfer value being increased in 24 countries (e.g., Egypt); additional payment cycles taking place in 11 countries (e.g., Chile). Some countries have done both (e.g., Turkey). Finally, coverage extension is underway in 72 countries: this includes expanding coverage to those not into programs, but still in social registries (e.g., Indonesia), or extending coverage to those partially or not listed in social registries, such as informal sector, self-employed workers (e.g., in two-dozen countries).

Cash transfer programs are more than doubled in coverage, including an average of 152.3% in scale up levels. Preliminary analysis for a subset of cash transfer programs with comparable data, it is possible to estimate the scale up of programs relative to Pre-COVID19 levels. Countries like the Philippines and El Salvador are quadrupling their coverage (in the case of Philippines also via multiple new programs), while even countries in Africa like Mauritania are almost doubling coverage. We will keep updating and expanding this analysis in coming editions.

The average duration of cash transfer programs in 2.9 months. Most programs have a duration of 3 months, with several monthly one-off schemes and some longer programs in a few other cases.

In-kind transfers also adapted considerably, especially school feeding programs. These include 20 measures, which have been leveraged in creative ways. With school closures, 368 million children are missing school feeding meals globally. Many adaptations are being rolled out to ensure continuity in provisions of such meals. For example, schools remined open just for food distribution in Chile; Costa Rica established collection points of school meals with perishables/fresh food procured from local farmers; many countries switched to home deliveries of meals, for example Belize; in Guatemala, those home deliveries are organized by parent associations; in Jamaica, home deliveries will be managed by the private sector; and in Kerala state of India, not meals, but “ingredients” are delivered to 300,000 families.

In terms of social insurance, there has been a significant uptick in measures since last week. This includes moving from 134 to 179 measures. Unemployment benefits is the most frequently adopted measure. Sick leave is present in countries like Algeria, El Salvador, Finland and Lebanon. Unemployment benefits are reported, for example, in Romania, Russia and South Africa. Deferring or subsidizing social contributions are present, among others, in Montenegro and the Netherlands.

There has been significant expansion also in labor market interventions, including from 78 to 93 global measures. Wage subsidies continue to be an important area of action, especially in the form of wage subsidies. As in previous editions, we only examine a subset of labor market measures, i.e., supply-side interventions related to workers (i.e., we don’t include demand-side measures like capital injection to firms). Wage subsidies account for over half (56%) 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.

There is progress across all regions and country income groups. Sub-Saharan Africa includes 4 new countries (such as Nigeria) and 12 novel measures. LAC witnessed an impressive growth in measures from 83 to 113. No new measures were recorded in South Asia. Low-income countries also had 2 new entries and 3 new programs. Overall, middle-income countries continue to be the epicenter of action.

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 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.

To sign up to the newsletter or share materials, you can contact Ugo by email ([email protected]), Twitter (@ugentilini) or LinkedIn.

Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Social assistance
    • Social transfers
      • Cash transfers
      • In kind transfers
  • Social insurance
  • Labour market / employment programmes
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
    • Coverage
  • Algeria
  • Angola
  • Chad
  • Egypt
  • Libya
  • Mauritania
  • Nigeria
  • Seychelles
  • South Africa
  • Anguilla
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Aruba
  • Bahamas
  • Belize
  • Bermuda
  • Chile
  • Costa Rica
  • El Salvador
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Jamaica
  • Montserrat
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Sint Maarten
  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Brunei
  • China
  • Georgia
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • Philippines
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Belarus
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Montenegro
  • Netherlands
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Global
The views presented here are the author's and not's