Azerbaijan‘s Social Policy Response to Covid-19: Swift Response, Modest Benefits

Azerbaijan’s social assistance and income support schemes adopted during the Covid-19 pandemic need to be seen within the context of the country’s existing social protection system and safety nets. While the existing system is operational and has the technical capacity to respond and deliver social policies, it has had two key shortcomings: (1) low benefit rates and (2) issues in coverage, notably the exclusion of informal employees and migrant workers. Left unaddressed ex ante, they caught the system off-guard ex post when the coronavirus pandemic broke out. As a result, although Covid-related social assistance measures (especially cash transfers) were implemented without delay and provided some immediate relief for vulnerable and affected social groups, they fell short of covering sizable sections of the population, namely informal workers and Azerbaijanis working in Russia. It is also doubtful that such assistance can improve future wellbeing of vulnerable groups, whose living standards are likely to worsen during and after the economic fallout from the pandemic.