UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) Policy Briefs

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs provides thought leadership through its UN DESA Policy Briefs series, presenting timely and relevant analysis and policy guidance on global economic and social issues.


COVID-19 and a Primer on Shock-responsive Social Protection Systems

The responsiveness of social protection systems to health and other shocks can be strengthened in a number of ways. Programme design can be tweaked to better handle large-scale shocks. Novel programmes can build on existing social protection infrastructure. The value or duration of a programme can be temporarily increased. To reach those most in need, existing programmes can be expanded to include new beneficiaries. Lastly, different programmes can be aligned to create synergies in programme delivery. Risks of implementing more shockresponsive social protection include overwhelming demand, lack of coordination, poor targeting and negative public perception. These can be partially offset by ensuring universal access to programmes. In response to the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 (coronavirus), a majority of countries have rolled out emergency measures to support their citizens. The pandemic is pushing existing social protection programmes to the brink, with demand far beyond usual operating capacity. To build back better, now and in the future, governments should take this opportunity to review and strengthen the shock-responsiveness of their social protections systems.


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