During the COVID-19 pandemic, countries responded with various social protection packages to mitigate the impact of lockdowns, closed educational establishments and public institutions and fully or partially suspended non-essential business activities. However, little information on such measures was shared among countries to encourage peer learning, strengthen policymaking capacities and improve government readiness to formulate similar effective responses to future shocks, including social protection for informal sector workers and the most vulnerable populations in the world.
Towards a Solution
To address this challenge, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA) developed the COVID-19 Stimulus Tracker: Global Observatory on Social Protection and Economic Policy Responses based on the United Nations framework for an immediate socioeconomic response to exogenous shocks. This was made possible through the Strengthening Social Protection for Pandemic Response project supported by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and implemented by the United Nations five regional commissions and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The aim of the Tracker is to help the global community better understand and compare social protection and economic policy support measures across regions and countries, assess equity and adequacy of policy responses and strengthen capabilities and readiness of governments to inform policy against shocks in the future.
The Tracker collects and presents COVID-19-related social protection and economic policy responses of governments of 193 countries and economies. It includes the measures taken by other entities (e.g., international financial institutions and United Nations entities) in the case of conflict-affected countries. It includes quantitative and qualitative data on 44 policy measures clustered around seven categories: social assistance; social insurance; loans and tax benefits; labour market; health-related support; financial policy support; and other general policy support. The concept makes it possible to understand both social protection and economic policy support measures and analyze how they impact the well-being of societies. It highlights gender responsive measures and those that directly benefit from the care economy.
Most importantly, the Tracker’s real-time “harvesting” of policy announcements enables its visitors to access up-to-date information on country-level policy interventions in response to the crisis and thereby serves as inspiration to learn from other countries with similar contexts through South-South learning. The Tracker’s dynamic visualization enhances peer learning through a user-friendly platform. Its creation builds on engagement with other regional commissions and adopts regional and sub-regional classification to facilitate access. The Tracker gathered information until December 2021 with mapping of about 6,600 COVID-19 stimulus policy responses. Based on the findings of the Tracker, a global policy brief was developed to inform about the highlights of COVID-19 policy responses across countries and regions, which was discussed by a global panel at a high-level political forum in 2021.
To ensure the sustainability of the tool, the Tracker is now part of several tools that ESCWA makes available to member countries to allow them to learn from each other, especially useful for those countries with similar socioeconomic conditions, so that they might formulate well-informed national policies. The Tracker is considered an adaptable tool that can allow better and more efficient responses to future shocks.