Key policy responses from the OECD

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09/04/2021
This policy brief uses online job vacancy postings as a partial indicator of the impact of COVID-19 on skills demand in five OECD countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States) between January and November 2020. The pandemic, as well as containment and mitigation measures designed to halt its spread, had a large but heterogeneous impact on the demand for skills. By early May, the total volume of online job vacancies had fallen by over 50% in all the countries analysed with respect to the beginning of the year, with even larger declines in some sectors. However, the demand for specific skills in the healthcare sector and in logistics increased. There is also evidence of an increase in vacancies involving remote-working arrangements. The brief also shows that the crisis affected differently individuals with different levels of educational qualifications and that such effect differed across the countries analysed.
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08/04/2021
This paper provides an analysis of the diverse range of SME and entrepreneurship policy measures implemented during the course of a year since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, with a view to identify lessons learned and implications for policy going forward, and assist governments build evidence-based policies to support SME recovery and resilience. The paper documents how SMEs were at the centre of the disruptions at the start of the pandemic and that one year later they stand in an even more precarious position, in particular young firms and start-ups, the self-employed, as well as women-led or minority-owned businesses. Governments acted swiftly to put in place ambitious support for SMEs and entrepreneurs, but one year into the pandemic, they are facing a complex dilemma that emergency liquidity support remains essential but at the same time it is not sustainable over the longer term and may have potential negative effects that need to be addressed to support the recovery. This paper formulates 15 lessons learned to help governments address three challenges: First, to continue support measures to avoid a liquidity crisis among SMEs while minimising the negative side effects; Second, to ensure that the gradual phase out of this emergency support does not create an SME solvency crisis; And third, to introduce effective policies that foster SME recovery.
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25/03/2021
This brief proposes estimates of the loss in on-the-job learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Participation in informal learning due to widespread shutdowns of economic activities is estimated to have decreased by 25%. In the case of non-formal learning the estimate corresponds to 18%. This represents a notable amount of lost learning, and one which may not be easily recovered. Estimated learning losses are highly heterogeneous across sectors and individuals, and depend on the pervasiveness of shutdowns of economic activities. Workers employed in administrative and support service activities; in the arts, entertainment and recreation, are expected to lose, on average, nearly three-quarters of informal and non‑formal learning opportunities per week. Results also show that the pandemic likely led to fewer learning opportunities for disadvantaged and low-skilled workers who, in turn, are most likely going to need retraining.
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23/03/2021
In response to the challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, governments are looking to their Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) to fill any financing gaps left by the private market and to mitigate the impact of the crisis by engaging in both short-term (ST) and medium- and long-term (MLT) trade finance. In the absence of comprehensive data on trade finance, this brief uses OECD surveys and other related indicators to attempt to identify emerging trends. These indicators suggest that ST trade finance is facing access problems (increased costs of ST financing for SMEs and higher rates of rejected applications) while MLT trade finance appears to be relatively resilient (decrease of 34% in volume and 15% in number of MLT export credit transaction). ECAs may therefore have a role to play in ST trade finance by acting on liquidity and increasing capacity. However for MLT trade finance, ECAs might have fewer levers for action, especially if the pandemic is affecting the demand side and reducing the pipeline of projects.
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18/03/2021
Following the extraordinarily rapid development of COVID‑19 vaccines, immunisation is underway in many OECD countries. However, demand will continue to outstrip supply for some time and currently, distribution is strongly skewed in favour of high-income countries. This both inequitable and inefficient. Directing vaccine to where need is greatest would maximise the number of lives saved and speed bringing the pandemic under control, by slowing transmission and reducing the likelihood of the emergence of viral variants of concern. Governments should therefore act now to accelerate vaccination globally, regardless of international borders, by reallocating supplies to areas of greatest need; continuing the scaling-up of production; ensuring that necessary logistics and health care infrastructure are in place; providing further financial and in-kind support to COVAX; and developing long-term strategies that include commitments to making vaccines available where they are needed most, including through sharing intellectual property and facilitating technology transfer.
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16/03/2021
The COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken to limit the spread of the disease have significantly disrupted economic activity in countries around the world, resulting in significant business interruption losses. The vast majority of these losses are likely to be absorbed by policyholders as, unless governments (or courts) intervene, few companies have business interruption coverage that is likely to respond to these types of losses – exposing the existence of an important protection gap for some pandemic-related business interruption losses. This note provides an overview of how business interruption insurance against pandemic risk could be provided with support from governments, and some of the challenges and considerations necessary for establishing such a programme.
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10/03/2021
One year after the outbreak of the COVID‑19 crisis, the future looks certainly brighter but it is not yet time to withdraw policy support for people and companies. Even if the headline labour market figures in many countries look better than in Q2 2020, millions of workers are still on job retention schemes and millions of others are unemployed or underemployed. In the coming months, while countries prepare for the implementation of their recovery plans, it is essential to continue supporting families and companies still deeply affected by the crisis, while providing the right incentives for job creation and resuming work. Without these measures, the recovery would start from an even worse economic and social starting point. The short-term costs are high but they are much lower than the costs of mass bankruptcies, layoffs and a depressed economy and labour market. Furthermore, the short-term costs can be reduced by enhancing the targeting of support to the most vulnerable sectors, companies and households, while fostering start-ups and job creation.
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22/02/2021
With the pandemic as a backdrop, this note provides a selected, high-level picture of resilience in infrastructure. Dimensions of resilience are explored across the project life-cycle, from planning and designing, to construction, operations, and decommissioning. This builds an understanding of how infrastructure is interconnected and contributes more broadly to resilient communities, particularly in light of the impacts of COVID-19. While not exhaustive, this note focusses on examples and observations in recent months, and looks forward as to how infrastructure can contribute to a sustainable recovery, particularly regarding potential lasting effects from the pandemic and how infrastructure can be innovative, adaptive or regenerative.This note first provides context by presenting high-level observations on the impact of COVID-19 in infrastructure. Aspects of resilience are briefly described such as physical, operational, financial, and governance, while broader considerations such as shifting demographics or technological change are also explored. This is followed by a section on how COVID-19 could impact infrastructure going forward.
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18/02/2021
Firm entry has rebounded after the drop experienced during the first COVID-19 lockdowns of early 2020, yet the recovery in entry rates is highly heterogeneous across countries, with possible long-term implications for employment and output growth. Financial support to firms’ liquidity and temporary changes to insolvency procedures have been effective in reducing bankruptcies, on average, by more than 30% relative to the pre-pandemic period. Policy measures may have protected viable and productive firms and avoided the systemic risks posed by a wave of bankruptcies, but at the risk of potentially keeping non-viable (the so-called zombie) firms afloat. Governments should implement a balanced strategy to phase out emergency support policies and pursue a gradual approach focusing on restoring the equity of distressed firms, encouraging timely debt restructuring and improving the efficiency of liquidation procedures, with the aim of fostering resource reallocation.
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17/02/2021
As in many countries, the economies of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) have been negatively affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Their governments responded by addressing the health impacts and providing relief to affected businesses and workers. Many EECCA countries have also implemented measures that will help advance environmental objectives as part of their rescue and recovery plans. Nevertheless, much more needs to be done to ensure that recovery plans accelerate a green transition, thereby building resilience against external shocks. This policy paper analyses measures related to COVID-19 in 11 EECCA countries based on their potential to advance the transition to a greener, climate-resilient and low-carbon economy. Recommendations suggest ways to ensure that governments align efforts to support economic recovery with their objectives on climate change, biodiversity and wider environmental protection.
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16/02/2021
The management of multilateral fish stocks is suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has disrupted the operations of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs), which have jurisdiction over fish stocks that either straddle the exclusive economic zones of several countries or are predominantly in the high seas. This is largely because of reduced monitoring, control and surveillance capacity due to limitations imposed on the operations of observer and surveillance programmes and the challenges of decision making in virtual meetings. A survey undertaken in July 2020, to which 13 RFMOs and nine OECD members responded, reveals that: i) over two-thirds of RFMOs have reduced in-person and on-board observation of vessels, increasing the opportunity for unscrupulous operators to engage in illegal, unreported or unregulated (IUU) fishing; and ii) almost all (92.3%) RFMOs surveyed have experienced disruption to their regular scheduled meetings and 84.6% reported disturbance to regular decision making. Nonetheless, on a positive note, the COVID-19 pandemic may spur the uptake of new technologies for virtual meetings and the monitoring of fishing activities.
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11/02/2021
The COVID-19 crisis is leading to reductions in work-based learning opportunities for vocational education and training (VET) students.This policy brief argues that VET programmes can be adapted to deliver practical components of VET in school-based settings when there is a persistent shortage of work-based learning opportunities. It also describes how innovative technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and simulators can be utilised to facilitate school-based delivery of practical learning, but also to improve the effectiveness of face-to-face and online teaching in VET in the longer‑term.
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11/02/2021
The policy debate on whether the gains from international specialisation in global value chains (GVCs) outweigh the associated risks of transmission of shocks has intensified in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak and the resulting disruptions in supply chains of some manufacturing and medical products. Questions are even being asked whether governments should use policy tools to “re-localis” GVCs. This policy brief first identifies key potential sources of exposure to shocks in GVCs. Second, it uses the OECD’s global trade model to shed light on the consequences of a stylised re-localisation policy scenario, in terms of both economic efficiency and stability. In this scenario, countries are less exposed to foreign shocks, but they are also less efficient and less able to cushion shocks through trade. Quantitatively, the latter effect tends to dominate. The economic case for policy-induced reshoring of GVCs is therefore weak. There is nevertheless scope for international co-operation and governments to join efforts with businesses to improve risk preparedness.
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11/02/2021
All countries need vaccines but not all can produce them. Vaccine production is highly specialised, subject to comparative advantages, and concentrated in few countries, making trade a vital means to deploying vaccines broadly. Keeping markets open by reducing tariffs, streamlining trade-related processes at and behind the border while ensuring better co-ordination of logistical processes will be key to ensuring timely access to vaccines for all. This note discusses trade and trade policy considerations underpinning access to the final and intermediate goods needed to effectively produce, deliver and administer COVID-19 vaccines. It focuses on the international aspects of the vaccine supply chain, discussing the sourcing, production, distribution and need to expedite international border crossing and transportation (including in the context of the cold supply chain).
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10/02/2021
Health systems continue to adapt to cope with the COVID‑19 pandemic. Much focus has been placed on the scaling-up of hospital capacities. However, the pandemic is also deeply affecting the health of many people who are not infected by the virus. People living with chronic conditions are not only highly vulnerable to complications and death from COVID‑19, but they are also suffering from disruptions to their regular care routines. The COVID‑19 crisis demonstrates the importance of placing primary health care at the core of health systems, both to manage an unexpected surge of demand and to maintain continuity of care for all. Strong primary health care – organised in multi-disciplinary teams and with innovative roles for health professionals, integrated with community health services, equipped with digital technology, and working with well-designed incentives – helps deliver a successful health system response. The innovations introduced in response to the pandemic need to be maintained to make health systems more resilient against future public health emergencies, and able to meet the challenges of ageing societies and the growing burden of chronic conditions.
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05/02/2021
Statement by the OECD Secretary-General. The lack of international co-operation risks failing the most crucial test: that of vaccinating widely enough to eradicate COVID-19 everywhere. This failure could lead to an unmitigated economic and social disaster. Vaccination is so far confined to a limited number of countries. At the time of writing, ten countries represent around 90% of total vaccination doses administered. Worse, while some of these countries have ordered enough doses to vaccinate their entire population 3 to 5 times over, many countries in the world remain entirely deprived of vaccines at this time.
04/02/2021
As the roll out of coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines begins, this policy brief asks how to ensure vaccines for all. In doing so, it examines the case for multilateral approaches to access and delivery, maps key challenges, and identifies priority actions for policy makers. The absence of a comprehensive approach to ensure vaccine access in developing countries threatens to prolong the pandemic, escalating inequalities and delaying the global economic recovery. While new collaborative efforts such as ACT Accelerator and its COVAX initiative are helping to bridge current gaps, these are not enough in circumstances where demand far outstrips supply. Based on the current trajectory, mass immunisation efforts for poorer countries could be delayed until 2024 or beyond, prolonging human and economic suffering for all countries. Policy actions to support equitable vaccine access in developing countries include: (i) supporting multilateral frameworks for equitable allocation of vaccines and for crisis response, resilience and prevention; (ii) highlighting the role of development finance; and, (iii) promoting context-driven solutions.
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28/01/2021
The policy brief details the critical challenges for the well-being of children in the context of the COVID-19 crisis and lays out the foundations of a Framework for Achieving the Well-Being of Children in the post-COVID-19 Decade to ensure that children are put at the centre of efforts to build back better. The Framework proposes five pillars of action, which includes developing a data framework for monitoring child well-being outcomes and policies and ensuring political leadership and commitment for child well-being. The brief also provides an overview summary of a webinar hosted by the OECD and the Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures in October 2020. This webinar provided a platform for OECD member countries and child well-being experts to share examples of country or regional policies and initiatives aimed at promoting child well-being during the pandemic, and to start shaping a shared understanding of child well-being and the outcome objectives.
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26/01/2021
Small island developing states (SIDS) are among the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, which is disrupting key economic sectors that SIDS’ undiversified and already fragile economies strongly rely upon. While they are succeeding to contain the health emergency, SIDS are faced with severe economic impacts which require bold government action and adequate international support. This policy brief: (i) highlights the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic across SIDS; (ii) provides an overview of the support delivered by development co-operation providers to face the crisis; and (iii) provides suggestions to ensure that international support can lead to a fast and sustainable recovery in SIDS: a ‘blue’ recovery.
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22/01/2021
COVID-19 disruptions to international mobility drove a collapse in services trade. In the medium term, the OECD estimates that closing borders to passengers could increase services trade costs by an average of 12% across sectors and countries. Restoring safe cross-border mobility through internationally co-ordinated border health protocols and mutual recognition agreements is therefore crucial to a strong economic recovery.
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