South Asia is estimated to have experienced the largest increase in poverty (+78%) and the greatest decline in the middle class (-32%) of any global region. While the challenge of the pandemic was mild in 2020, in 2021 it has been severe. This webinar will get under the surface of such figures with analysis of what has happened in Bangladesh and India, drawing on household surveys and lived experiences.
The analysis will be a basis for understanding what policy measures have been taken and are still needed to assist the inclusive recovery which poor and vulnerable people in South Asia require. We will also discuss the policy measures already put in place and the extent to which they match up to need, and what the major constraints might be. Where there were strong social protection policies and programmes in place prior to the pandemic, these could be strengthened and broadened, as with the Indian Public Distribution System and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee, though there were still gaps – in urban areas for example. Other critical policy areas – education, for example, where the digital divide has bitten hard – have received much less global and national attention.
We invite the global community to focus on South Asia, and ask what can they as well as South Asian governments do to ensure people living in poverty are not left behind while the world ‘builds back better’. We will pose the questions:
How has Covid-19 changed or exacerbated the issues faced by people living in poverty in South Asia, and how should national and global policy and programming pivot to meet their needs? The expansion of social protection has been a significant policy response: is this enough to meet the need, and what other responses policy responses should be prioritised?
Andrew Shepherd (Chair)
Director of the Chronic Poverty Advisory Network & Principal Research Fellow, ODI
Executive Director, BIGD, BRAC University
National Council of Applied Economic Research, New Delhi
ODI Research Fellow
Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit
University College Dublin and ODI Research Associate