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Addressing the economic crisis of COVID-19 in Asia through social protection

Since the 1990s, rapid economic dynamism has taken place across the Asia-Pacific region and resulted in widespread growth as well as significant reductions in poverty. While positive for the region in general, it was not without some negative side-effects: unequal distribution of income, opportunities, and resources as well as wide-ranging impacts on society, the economy, and the environment. Governments had significant gaps in their policies to address the impacts that this would have on the population today and for future generations.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Asia-Pacific and Development Pathways worked to prepare an analytical background paper on fiscal mechanisms to promote inter-generational equity. However, midway through the project, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The virus created a perfect storm of crises across Asia, resulting in widespread job losses or cuts in wages in both the formal and informal economies. With all Asian economies having been hit hard by the crisis and economic growth falling significantly, Development Pathways conducted additional research and analysis to develop the publication “Addressing the economic crisis of COVID-19 in Asia through social protection”.

The resulting paper, prepared with UNDP’s Asia-Pacific Economist Network, examines potential social security responses that countries can put in place. It provides a brief overview of social security systems in Asia, examines responses that Asian countries have already implemented and proposes a range of more effective complementary or alternative approaches. This was presented with a PowerPoint to UNDP Asia by Stephen Kidd in April 2020. The project was closed a few months later, with the final conclusions suggesting that this was an opportunity for governments in Asia to begin building valuable social protection systems which would prepare countries for any future crises.

Project dates: 16 December 2019 to 30 June 2020.

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Publication: Addressing the COVID-19 economic crisis in Asia through social protection