Are governments investing in caring and just economies?

In 2020-2021, the COVID-19 crisis had catastrophic impacts on Asia and the Pacific, affecting economies and societies. It reversed much of the progress made towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), worsening gender equalities in health, education and labour, and increasing pressures on weak healthcare systems and fragmented social protection systems. This report for UN Women is based on an assessment of COVID-19 fiscal stimulus response and policy measures in nine countries in Asia and the Pacific (Cambodia, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam).

Between March 2020 and August 2021, the nine countries deployed a range of fiscal stimulus measures to respond to the impacts of the virus and various containment measures leading to the sudden suspension of economic and livelihood activities. Social protection and employment responses appeared to be the main fiscal policy priorities. While they largely overlapped with other measures aligned with achieving different outcomes, especially protecting informal workers and improving access to health care, the bulk of fiscal response measures were near term, ending in 2020. The pandemic highlighted that issues affecting women and at-risk groups have fallen outside the purview of fiscal decision making, including access to decent work, support for care work and protection from violence. This report examines whether governments have demonstrated commitment to meeting gender equality and human rights commitments and concludes with policy recommendations.