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Synthesis report

The socioeconomic impact of Covid-19 in low- and middle-income countries: A synthesis of learning from the Covid-19 Responses for Equity Programme

James Georgalakis
Director of Impact and Communications | Instituto de Estudios del Desarrollo
Laura Bolton
Oficial de investigación | Instituto de Estudios del Desarrollo

This report provides a snapshot of the research undertaken and published by members of the IDRC-supported CORE programme.

It sets out the main themes addressed by the research in relation to Covid-19 impacts on industries, sectors and socioeconomic groups in locations across Africa, Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, and Latin America. This includes both descriptions of how the pandemic has affected the lives of people from marginalised and excluded communities, and the efficacy of policy responses to the pandemic. Much of the learning arising from this ongoing research has implications for the pandemic response in different contexts, for building resilience against future shocks, and for the challenges of undertaking applied research during a global health emergency.

Given the diverse spread of the 21 projects rapidly mobilised by the IDRC across 42 countries during the early stages of the pandemic, this summary of findings is, by its very nature, far more focused on some areas and geographies than others; it in no way claims to provide a comprehensive analysis of the socioeconomic impact of Covid-19. Nonetheless, it does provide some important learning for researchers, policy actors and practitioners seeking to build back better in the wake of an unprecedented global health emergency.

Summary of findings

Covid-19 has hit marginalised people the hardest, and important themes have emerged from CORE research across regions and sectors that have profound implications for pandemic preparedness and response in low-and middle-income country (LMIC) settings. The pandemic has had intersectional impacts on people’s lives across the dimensions of livelihoods and food security, social protection, fiscal policy, gender, governance and public health. It has also dramatically exposed weaknesses and inequities in social protection systems, food production and distribution, job security, tax and poverty alleviation.

Many CORE research projects have produced solutions that directly address the social injustices that remain largely untouched by the biomedical response to the pandemic. These include: support for piloting community managed kitchens in Peru to address acute food shortages; promoting relief measures for migrant workers in India; promoting universal basic income in the Middle East; and recommending direct cash transfers and food support in East Africa.

These solutions are grounded in the lived experiences of the hardest-to-reach communities and in sophisticated modelling and macroeconomic analysis. CORE researchers have identified some of the population groups that are most vulnerable to shocks. Rural women-led households, informal workers and migrants have suffered some of the worst social and economic impacts of the pandemic due to deep-rooted inequalities. As a body of research, CORE provides powerful evidence for investment in inclusive social protection systems, synergising fiscal policies to protect the most vulnerable against environmental and economic shocks, and making macroeconomic policy gender-focused.

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Bolton, L. and Georgalakis, J. (2022) The Socioeconomic Impact of Covid-19 in Low- and Middle-Income Countries, CORE Synthesis Report, Brighton: Institute of Development Studies, DOI: 10.19088/CORE.2022.007