hanna2_INDRANIL MUKHERJEEAFP via Getty Images_coronavirussignindiacooperation Indranil Mukherjee/AFP via Getty Images

Cushioning the Poor from the COVID-19 Shock

Expanding social protection to reach vulnerable people quickly must be a pillar of every country’s COVID-19 strategy. To achieve this, resource-constrained governments must look to past experience and existing research to design the most effective and efficient programs possible.

CAMBRIDGE – When India’s government announced, with four hours’ notice, a nationwide three-week lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus, millions of the country’s poorest citizens faced the risk of hunger and destitution. Many migrant laborers, suddenly jobless, walked hundreds of miles from cities to their native villages. There, too, the COVID-19 lockdown may be devastating: poor households cannot survive long – often not more than a few days – without an income.

These challenges are worldwide. But developed-country governments have been using their capacity to borrow to implement massive relief packages intended to support companies, the poor, and the working- and middle-class families at risk of being pushed into poverty by layoffs and business closures.

Developing-country governments must find ways to do the same. Expanding social protection to reach vulnerable people quickly must be a pillar of every country’s COVID-19 strategy. To achieve this, resource-constrained governments must look to past experience and existing research to design the most effective and efficient programs possible.

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