An uneven recovery: Taking the pulse of the Latin America and Caribbean Region following the pandemic

To continue monitoring how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the welfare of households in the region, the World Bank and UNDP have joined forces in the implementation of a second phase of High-Frequency Phone Surveys (HFPS) in Latin America and the Caribbean. The survey, collected between May and July 2021, takes the socio-economic pulse of households and measures the wellbeing of the region a year and a half into the pandemic.

This note An Uneven Recovery: Taking the pulse of the Latin American and the Caribbean region following the pandemic presents the emerging results in the areas of labor markets, income and food security, education, gender, health, and access to digital and banking services.

Main Messages:

  • Labor market indicators show signs of recovery (employment has recovered with respect to 2020 and even with respect to pre-pandemic levels in a few countries), but job quality has deteriorated (informality has increased).
  • Hours worked remain below pre-pandemic levels and, thus, more than half of respondents report that their labor income has not fully recovered.
  • Close to half of the households in the region are still unable to recover their pre-pandemic (total) income level, despite receiving support from the government in the form of regular and emergency transfers and despite increases in private transfers.
  • During the pandemic, food insecurity almost doubled in the region. Countries with greater inequality and poverty experienced a bigger shock in terms of food insecurity.
  • Engagement in some form of educational activity in the region is twelve percentage points below the attendance rate before the pandemic. In addition, the level and type of engagement varies substantially between and within countries.
  • Women face larger burdens than men to retain their jobs or reenter the labor market. They not only continue to lose jobs at much higher rates than men, but they are seeing larger increases in non-paid domestic work, particularly in the supervision of children’s educational activities.
  • Access to general health services has gone back to pre-pandemic levels, but vaccination hesitancy remains a cause for concern. This is particularly true for countries in the Caribbean, rural households across the entire region, and populations with low levels of education.
  • The pandemic has incentivized the use of mobile wallets across the region, though usage rates are still low. The use of digital transactions (both mobile banking and e-commerce) also increased, signaling the importance of digital technologies to stay economically connected and/or to receive monetary support.

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