TEMPORARY BASIC INCOME: Protecting Poor and Vulnerable People in Developing Countries
23 Jul, 2020
The rapid surge of COVID-19 cases across developing countries and the devastating socio-economic crisis that follows because of lost jobs and incomes suggests that unprecedented policy measures are needed. In most developing countries, social protection systems are weak and tend to benefit mostly formal workers, leaving poor and vulnerable people and their families partially or fully unprotected. While the world has witnessed an expansion of social protection and assistance measures in response to the pandemic, the lion’s share of spending has been accounted for by high-income economies. Specifically, the number of such measures has increased from 103 to 1,055 across 200 countries and territories since mid-March; fully one-third of those are non-contributory cash transfers benefiting 15 per cent of the world’s population. However, total spending by low- and middle-income countries amounts to just US$77.9 billion, or 13.2 per cent of the world’s total of US$589.6 billion. In per capita terms, these countries are spending an average of US$7 in social assistance or US$9.5 if social insurance and labour market programs are added, which is in stark contrast with the corresponding averages of US$121-123 recorded by high-income economies.