Social Policy Response in the Global South: Evidence from 36 countries

Prof. Dr. Tim Dorlach
Prof. Dr. Tim Dorlach

Tim Dorlach, who was responsible for the coordination of the CRC 1342 Covid-19 Social Policy Response Series, has done a meta-analysis of the 36 reports. He has now published his findings in  Social Policy and Society: Social Policy Responses to Covid-19 in the Global South: Evidence from 36 Countries.

One of Tim’s findings was that social policy change during the first year of the pandemic has been characterised by expansion and maintenance. The majority of the 350 social reforms reported in the 36 reports were categorised as expansion of coverage and/or generosity of existing benefits or as the introduction of new benefits.

Some countries added only rather small details to their well-developed and relatively universal welfare states, such as Costa Rica, whereas a few other countries, with less universal welfare states, implemented broad social policy responses. In Brazil the poverty rates fell to a historic low during the pandemic, mostly due to the country’s generous Emergency Allowance. Yet other countries (e.g. Mexico and Uganda) only added rudimentary social policy responses to their insufficient social protection systems. But overall, the countries in the Global South introduced social policy responses that were significant, though not fully sufficient, Tim Dorlach notes.

Most of the 36 countries have focussed on temporary and targeted benefits supporting the labour market and offering social assistance. Developing economies often used cash transfers and food relief and relied heavily on external funding, whereas emerging economies applied a broad range of measures and were acting more independently.

With regard to the question whether these social policy expansions will be made permanent, Tim Dorlach writes: “With limited signs of consolidation, it currently seems more likely that many benefits will remain temporary and expire soon”. The economic crisis and rising public deficits may even lead to a period of retrenchment.