Time of event
15:00–17:00 (Tokyo time)
Having spread to over 185 countries and infecting millions, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a global health emergency and profound economic shock. Asia and Pacific is one of the hardest-hit regions due to its high population density, yet to be eliminated poverty, and large numbers of informal and migrant workers in vulnerable sectors. Millions may return to poverty if incomes and livelihoods are not protected during the crisis.
As a response to the pandemic, safety net programs are being implemented in most Asian economies. Examples include cash transfers, in-kind food support, wage subsidies, utility waivers, social insurance, and social pension support. The most prevalent mechanisms are cash transfers, which gained traction even before the COVID-19 pandemic as an effective tool to support the poor but have not been tested in a crisis of the current magnitude. The speed and scale of the response required for the pandemic is unprecedented, compelling governments and development practitioners to learn lessons in real time.
ADBI and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) co-hosted a three-part webinar series addressing COVID-19 safety net challenges and real-time lessons for invited senior government officials directly engaged in the design and implementation of COVID-19 safety net responses, as well as social protection experts. ADBI distributed a questionnaire to government officials beforehand about the scale of the pandemic in their respective countries, its economic impact, the most vulnerable segments of the population, and implementation obstacles they may be facing. Development practitioners and researchers were asked to respond and share ideas about reaching the most vulnerable.
Webinar One: Identifying the Most Vulnerable
The first webinar in the series focusd on the challenges governments face in expanding social safety nets rapidly and efficiently to reach the most vulnerable. In low-income Asian economies, less than one in five are registered for government safety net programs. Furthermore, many low wage workers may not qualify because their incomes lift them just above the poverty line. However, their financial situations are often so fragile that any unanticipated disruption in wages could plunge them into poverty. Although there is an urgency to expand safety nets to reach the most vulnerable, especially informal workers, returning migrant workers, and workers in hard-hit sectors, identifying and registering those individuals can be challenging.
- Provide real-time lessons on safety net responses to the COVID-19 pandemic
- Exchange ideas on innovation opportunities to expand safety nets and cash transfer payments to the most vulnerable
- Senior ADB developing member country government officials from departments of fiscal policy, labor, statistics, and information technology
- Development practitioners
- Policy researchers and innovators
- Identification of real-time lessons on mobilizing large-scale cash transfers to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
- Discussion of potential innovations for cash transfer payment mechanisms that leverage research on financial inclusion, digital finance, and fintech
- ADBI Policy Brief on how to capture safety net mobilization momentum to ensure progress toward social protection systems for all
Asian Development Bank