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Social protection response to Covid-19 and beyond: lessons learned for adaptive social protection


Hero image description: Covid-19 citizens in South Africa. Photo: Government of South Africa, CC BY-ND 2.0 Image credit:Government of South Africa Image license:CC BY-ND 2.0

In response to the Covid-19 crisis, an unprecedented number of social protection measures have been announced by countries worldwide. Policy adjustments and innovations under way include efforts to address social protection gaps and expand support in the immediate instance. They also present opportunities and risks for longer-term social protection policy and system development.

This research project examines social protection measures adopted since the onset of the pandemic, with the aims of promoting policy learning and helping ensure countries are better equipped with inclusive, adaptive and sustainable social protection systems moving forward. With a focus on population groups particularly negatively affected by the Covid-19 crisis and commonly excluded from or underserved by social protection (informal workers, women, urban dwellers, refugees), the research explores:

  • Evidence of policy implementation and of crisis response effectiveness
  • The enablers of and bottlenecks to effective social protection crisis response
  • Implications of crisis response measures for social protection in the longer-term
  • Emerging policy lessons and recommendations

Working paper series

Upcoming papers

  • Extending social protection to informal workers? Emerging lessons from Covid-19 crisis response

  • Ep. 1 | Social protection provisions to refugees during the Covid-19 pandemic

    Guests: Jessica Hagen-Zanker, Senior Research Fellow at ODI and Andrew Mitchell, Senior Social Protection Officer, Division of Resilience and Solutions at UNHCR

    Listen here >>

  • Ep. 2 | National cash transfer responses to Covid-19: operational lessons

    Guests: Christy Lowe, Research Officer - Equity and Social Policy Programme at ODI and Madhumitha Hebbar, MAINTAINS project Lead Researcher, and Independent Consultant

    Listen here >>

  • Ep. 3 | Covid-19: crisis as opportunity for urban cash transfers?

    Guests: Keetie Roelen, Research Fellow and Co-Director of the Center for Social Protection at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), and Ugo Gentilini, Global Lead for Social Assistance, World Bank

    Listen here >>

  • Ep. 4 | Have social protection responses to Covid-19 undermined or supported gender equality?

    Guests: Rebecca Holmes, Research Associate at ODI and Deputy Team Lead at SPACE, and Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker, National Advocacy Manager at Black Sash (South Africa)

    Listen here >>

  • Ep. 5 | ODA financing for social protection: lessons from the Covid-19 crisis response

    Guests: Anna McCord, Research Associate, Equity and Social Policy team at ODI, and Michal Rutkowski, Global Director for Social Protection and Jobs, World Bank

    Listen here >>

  • Ep. 6 | Covid-19 crisis: opportunities and risks for extending social protection to informal workers

    Guests: Laura Alfers, Director of the Social Protection Programme, WIEGO, and Gautam Bhan, Faculty Member, Indian Institute of Human Settlements

    Listen here >>


Taking stock at the one-year mark: social protection during Covid-19 and beyond

One year on from the first announcements of lockdown measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, this event brought together leading experts and policymakers to discuss the findings emerging from this study and wider evidence to share policy learning to date. It asked: is the crisis a turning point in social protection? On the basis of policy developments and evidence to date, is the pandemic opening the door for a reappraisal of investment in social protection, as suggested by some? If so, what are the policy priorities for governments and partners moving forward to help ensure the strengthening of social protection systems?

Speakers included:

  • Francesca Bastagli, Director, Equity and Social Policy, ODI 
  • Armando Barrientos, Professor of Poverty and Social Justice at the Global Development Institute, University of Manchester
  • Bessie Msusa, Chief Economist in the Poverty Reduction and Social Protection Division at the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Malawi
  • Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant of the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection, Pakistan
  • Lynette Maart, National Director, Black Sash, South Africa
  • Ugo Gentilini, Global Lead Social Assistance, World Bank