18 December, 2020

Shelter from the storm | Oxfam study

As 2020 draws to a close, the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic shows no sign of abating. The virus itself, and the lockdown measures to contain it, have hit millions of people hard. Hundreds of millions of people have lost their jobs and income. As always, women are paying the highest price.

Oxfam published a study on the influence of the coronavirus on social protection in 126 low- and middle-income countries. The study shows big differences in public spending between low- and middle-income countries on one hand and wealthy countries on the other hand. The majority of low- and middle-income countries have not been able to deploy the same ‘whatever it takes approach’ to protecting their people and economies. 

The findings show that a broader response is needed to avoid deepening inequality between and within countries. Right now, the overall investment is low, too few people are protected and there is an inadequacy of protection. However, a lot can be done to avoid the worst projections. If governments make the right choices now and invest in social protection for all, then public policies can make a difference.

‘This virus will starve us before it makes us sick.’
- Micah Olywangu. A taxi driver in Nairobi, Kenya

Social protection is one of the most powerful tools for governments to reduce inequality, vulnerability, poverty and need. The governments of South Africa and Bolivia have already shown that a lot can be done by providing unemployment benefits, child support and pensions on a nearly universal and long-term basis.

Oxfam is committed to implement universal social protection. It is an essential component of a better future for all. Rich nations must provide financial support to poorer nations to ensure everyone has access to universal social protection.

Oxfam’s analysis provides some encouragement: increasing spending on social protection is not a cost, it’s a smart investment. It has such impressive returns that it makes it a cost-effective investment. For those who are interested can read more about the study here.

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