Extending social protection during times of crisis: The Data Revolution

This working paper analyses the adaptation of social protection systems to changes in economic conditions and discusses how these can be made more responsive and inclusive during crises by leveraging newly available data systems. In examining data for 106 countries from the 1980s onwards, it transpires that social protection is the most countercyclical type of public expenditure and that social assistance spending has typically been more responsive during economic contractions. Preliminary data suggests that social protection spending has been more adaptive during the COVID-19 pandemic than it was following the global financial and economic crisis of 2007–2009; it is expressed by the adoption of countercyclical policy interventions in both developed and developing economies, with a strong expansion of non-contributory interventions. The discussion then reviews recent policy innovations that were introduced during the pandemic to track the impact of the socio-economic crisis and identify potential beneficiaries. These innovations demonstrate that governments can respond to a crisis in a timely manner and even reach individuals who are typically outside the scope of social protection (e.g. informal workers).