COVID-19 in Latin America: Promoting entrepreneurship and reducing social vulnerabilities

By Jorge Arbache, Private Sector Vice-President, Development Bank of Latin America (CAF)


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Vendor in Quito, Ecuador. Photo: teranbryan_ecu/Shutterstock

Statistics show that economic growth in Latin America is highly volatile, with periods of acceleration and collapse. This dynamic hides perverse implications. The combination of low growth persistence with high-growth volatility is associated with greater risk aversion, which in turn encourages financial speculation and firms to invest in lower risk, but also lower social return projects. Additionally, poverty and other social indicators are also very sensitive to the harmful combination of short growth spells and high volatility. Continue reading

COVID-19 and labour markets in Latin America: How to repair the damage?

By José Manuel Salazar Xirinachs, Former Regional Director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for Latin America and the Caribbean, and former Minister of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Lima, Peru – April 7, 2020. Photo: Shutterstock

The damage of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing global lockdown crisis will be devastating, causing the worst disruption to labour markets in Latin America since the Great Depression. Up to 43 million people – probably more – could be unemployed in 2020. Tragically, the state of labour markets in the region was bad even before the crisis. Repairing the damage while addressing past structural legacies is possible, but it will be slow and challenging, and will require something most countries in the region have not done well in the past: a massive focus on microeconomic policies for accelerated productive transformation, and technological and human talent development.

The damage has only just begun and is still evolving, but already looks severe. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) estimates a contraction for the region of -5.3%, the IMF of -5.2%, and the World Bank of -4.6%. All projections now point to severe recessions in all countries in the region. Continue reading

The COVID-19 crisis: income support to informal workers is necessary and possible

By Laura Alfers, Director, Social Protection Programme, WIEGO, Rachel Moussié, Deputy Director, Social Protection Programme, WIEGO and Jenna Harvey, Global Focal Cities Coordinator, WIEGO


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Photo: Shutterstock

Income recovery in the informal economy will require broad and longer-term support

Juana Corman wakes at 2:00 a.m., as she has for decades, to travel across town to the distribution centre where she picks up stacks of newspapers to sell. Normally, she would sell from her dedicated kiosk to pedestrians on Lima’s busy streets, but under Peru’s mandatory stay-at-home order, her work has changed. Now, she sells the daily paper house-to-house – delivering critical information to a city on edge. In one respect, Juana Corman is more fortunate than many other informal workers in the city – as an essential worker she is able to continue working. However, selling door to door has meant a significant reduction in earnings at the same time as her costs have increased due to limited public transport and the need to purchase protective equipment. Continue reading

Why protecting informal economy workers is so critical in time of COVID-19

By Anders Gerdin, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and Alexandre Kolev, Head of the Social Cohesion Unit, OECD Development Centre


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Local market in Antipolo City, Philippines, during the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: Shutterstock

The outbreak and spread of COVID-19 is having and will have a disproportionate impact on informal economy workers across the world, especially in developing countries, where they represent about 70% of the workforce. Many of these informal economy workers are poor and most lack labour, social and health protection. As they often simply cannot implement social distancing, they are particularly exposed and vulnerable to the pandemic. In turn, entire economic sectors, of which informal workers are a mainstay, could collapse. The food economy is a case in point. The combination of border closures and the likely shortages of informal workers due to confinement measures may put food security at risk. Urgent policy action is needed to protect these workers and recognise their value as essential service providers. Continue reading

From Social Distancing to Social Solidarity: Gig economy and the Covid-19

By Funda Ustek-Spilda,  Mark Graham, Alessio Bertolini, Srujana Katta, Fabian Ferrari and Kelle Howson – A coalition of researchers at Fairwork – an organisation which studies the work practices and working conditions in the emerging gig economy. Fairwork is based at the Oxford Internet Institute.


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


gig-econoy-covid19Social distancing and self-isolation are the policies du jour. At this point, an estimated 1.7 billion people have been asked to remain at home by their governments, whether through a full lock-down or similar measures. As people are required to self-isolate and minimise social contact, using the internet and online platforms has become the safest way to access necessary goods and services. It is therefore not surprising that “gig workers” – workers that digital platforms hire on a per-service (“gig”) basis – have been identified as “key workers” in the fight against Covid-19, be it delivering household necessities or performing services, such as stocking shelves in supermarkets or caring for the elderly or disabled.

Nevertheless, due to the nature of their jobs, gig workers have been identified as the highest risk group as they cannot always ensure keeping a 2 m social distance from their customers. Also, our interviews show that many gig workers live hand to mouth, and they just cannot afford to take time off, whether there is a public health crisis or not. Moreover, some workers have leases and other upfront payments that they have committed to make to the platforms they work for, and they are simply unable to hold off work until they raise what they owe. It is worth noting that the gig economy also relies on workers in developing countries where overall most workers are informal and very often lack safety nets and other forms of protection. In brief, Covid-19 has brought to light a major inequality in the way platform economies are set up: gig workers provide for the key needs of society, yet they do not have access to fair working conditions. Continue reading

The food economy can create more jobs for West African youth

By Léopold Ghins and Koffi Zougbédé, OECD Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat 

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Muhammad Sanyang, General Manager of MBK Farms, Banjul, Gambia.
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Youth employment and job creation loom high on development agendas in West Africa. The issue is also a priority at the continental and international levels: decent work and youth empowerment are priority areas within the African Union’s Agenda 2063, and ‘youth and jobs in the Sahel’ will figure prominently amongst talks at the G7 Summit which begins this Saturday in Biarritz.

Such policy focus is necessary in view of the demographic realities in the region. Although unemployment is low overall, informality remains prevalent, and growing numbers of young people struggle to access attractive training or sources of income. West African economies need to create more and better jobs. Yet, from a policy perspective, how to support decent and inclusive job creation is not always clear. Trade-offs in public resource allocations across sectors and information gaps abound.

In this context, what and where are the opportunities for policymakers willing to address the challenge of decent job creation? Continue reading