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 Two: Pandemic Journeys of Migrant Workers and Reaching the Unbanked
The second webinar in the series focused on the challenges associated with cash transfer payments for the unbanked. A large proportion of the world’s unbanked reside in Asia, which presents a significant obstacle for cash transfer payments. In recent years, Asia’s poor have turned to digital banking and fintech, such as mobile money accounts and virtual payments. Speakers discussed the prospects for leveraging existing digital finance technology to reach Asia’s unbanked with urgent cash transfers.
This webinar also focused on the plight of migrant workers forced to return home as host regions and countries locked down. From travel expenses to lost remittances and livelihoods, the session examined the projected impact on migrant workers and the households they support.
- 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