Social protection systems and the response to COVID-19 in the Arab region


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Social protection systems and the response to COVID-19 in the Arab region

December 28, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting societies and economies at their core. In the Arab Region, 1 the pandemic has exacerbated existing structural weaknesses in economies as well as unresolved social challenges, making the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) even more urgent. Governments in the region are facing two challenges: to effectively address the health crisis and to respond to the economic and social fallout from the crisis. Social protection 2 plays an indispensable role in the policy response to the crisis, ensuring that the most vulnerable people can effectively access health care and supporting job, income and food security. Governments across the region have introduced a range of social protection measures to help mitigate the impacts of the crisis. This paper aims to review the key social protection measures implemented as a response to the crisis, identify gaps, and propose ways to establish more coherent and effective social protection systems.

The paper will begin with an overview of the current socioeconomic context in the region in light of the crisis and the pivotal role of social protection in mitigating the impacts of the crisis. It will then discuss the link between the oil economy and social welfare, and the potential implications of the 2020 record-low oil prices on social spending in the region. The paper will then review the social protection systems in the region, including the strengths and weaknesses of these systems, as well as the impacts of these systems. It will then delve into a review of the social protection measures taken by governments to mitigate the impacts of the crisis, the challenges in introducing these measures, and the gaps in response. Finally, the paper will conclude with a set of non-prescriptive short-, mediumand long-term policy recommendations to develop more coherent and shock-responsive social protection systems that are flexible and structured to cope with future risks and the challenges ahead.