Key policy responses from the OECD

Tackling Coronavirus (Covid-19). Contributing to a global effort

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The use of telemedicine, or remote clinical consultations, was limited in most OECD countries before the COVID-19 pandemic, held back by regulatory barriers and hesitancy from patients and providers. In early 2020, as COVID-19 massively disrupted in-person care, governments moved quickly to promote the use of telemedicine. The number of teleconsultations skyrocketed, playing a vital role in maintaining access to care, but only partly offsetting reductions in in-person care. This brief describes how governments scaled up remote care during the pandemic and explores the impact that this massive shift to remote care has had on health care system performance.
Small island developing states (SIDS) have been acutely affected by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This paper takes a broader perspective to explore how the revenue effects of this crisis in SIDS are connected to their unique financing and development challenges. It also suggests how SIDS governments and development co-operation providers can better partner together to strengthen mobilisation of domestic revenues – in particular tax revenues – in the recovery post-COVID-19.
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COVID-19 is the most significant public health emergency in more than a century, caused a global economic crisis, and has long-term repercussions across society. This unprecedented crisis has highlighted the urgent need for smart investments to strengthen health system resilience. There is a need to protect people’s underlying health; fortify the foundations of health systems; and bolster health professionals working on the frontline. This report identifies a set of priority investment areas needed to strengthen health system resilience. It then produces order-of-magnitude estimates of the expected costs of such investments, drawing extensively from existing OECD data and analytical studies. These priority investments represent an estimated 1.4% of GDP, on average across OECD countries (and ranging from 0.6-2.5%), as compared with pre-pandemic expenditure of 8.8%. A combination of targeted spending and measures to reduce wasteful spending could mitigate the overall increases in health spending in the medium to long term.
While the COVID‑19 crisis had a disproportionate impact on immigrants during the first months of the pandemic, the longer run effects are more mixed. Employment rates of foreign-born people are up, back to or near pre-crisis levels for most countries. However, long-standing weaknesses in access to training remain, and immigrants are still more likely than the native-born to catch the disease, to develop severe symptoms, and to face higher mortality risks. Following a first OECD policy brief published after the first wave (OECD, 2020), this policy brief provides new evidence on the impact of the pandemic on immigrant integration in terms of health, labour market outcomes and training, as OECD countries start to recover from the crisis.
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This Policy Brief provides the key findings and policy insights from the April 2022 update of OECD Green Recovery Database, which tracks recovery measures with a clear environmental impact adopted by OECD member countries, the European Union and selected large economies. Since the previous update in September 2021, the budget allocated to environmentally positive measures increased from USD 677 billion to USD 1 090 billion, while recovery spending with ‘mixed’ impacts increased from USD 163 to 290 billion. The Brief also explores how well-designed green recovery plans can generate the double dividend of enhanced energy security and better environmental outcomes, in the face of energy security concerns triggered by the war in Ukraine.
The goods needed to vaccinate, protect and test during the COVID-19 pandemic are produced across many different countries. This brief tells the tale of three products ‒ vaccines, face masks and tests ‒ and highlights the role of trade in the fight against COVID-19. International markets and global supply chains played a pivotal role during the COVID-19 pandemic: first, by helping countries avail themselves of the goods needed to address the pandemic; second, by providing a means to ease temporary supply constraints; and third, by enabling access to key components to ramp up production to meet surging demand.
Governments across the OECD are investing significant resources to address the immediate and long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given that the crisis has affected different age groups differently and that its repercussions will be felt by many for decades to come, governments need to adopt an integrated public governance approach to COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. This policy brief presents the views of a non-representative sample of 151 youth organisations from 72 countries, including 100 youth organisations based in 36 OECD countries, on how young people have been experiencing the crisis and related government action. It is complemented by an analysis of the measures adopted across 34 OECD countries and provides recommendations on how to deliver a fair, inclusive and resilient recovery for young people through a range of public governance approaches.
The young, the low educated, migrants, racial/ethnic minorities and low-wage workers were over-represented in jobs that cannot be done remotely and were therefore exposed to a higher risk of infection or job loss when the pandemic began. Many of those employed in these at-risk jobs were the frontline workers who continued to work in their physical workplace and in contact with other people throughout the pandemic to deliver essential goods and services. Indeed, the crisis has highlighted the extent to which society depends upon frontline workers who are often employed in low-paid jobs whose quality matches neither the importance of the work, nor the hazards involved. Other workers in at-risk jobs suffered particularly large losses in employment and income. In particular, both migrants and workers from racial/ethnic minorities were hit harder initially and are recovering more slowly.
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This document provides an update on the use of job retention (JR) schemes during the COVID-19 crisis until the end of 2021 and takes stock of the different strategies employed by OECD governments to adjust them as the crisis evolved. It provides three key insights. First, since reaching a peak of 20% of employment in April/May 2020 on average across OECD countries, the use of JR support has declined to 1.3% in November/December 2021. Second, countries have used different approaches to adjust temporary JR provisions during the course of the crisis, with some phasing them out, some providing increasingly targeted support and others keeping temporary measures unchanged. Third, JR schemes have tended to become more targeted by directing support towards jobs in firms that had been affected most by the pandemic, but remained viable in the medium term. A majority of countries now require co‑financing by firms for hours not worked under these schemes in contrast to the start of the crisis when most countries exempted firms from subsidising the costs associated with hours not worked.
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International trade plunged in 2020 but recovered sharply in 2021. While total trade flows are now comfortably above pre-pandemic levels, trade impacts across specific goods, services and trade partners are highly diverse, creating pressures on specific sectors and supply chains. The changes in the trade structure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in a single year was of a similar magnitude to changes otherwise typically seen over 4-5 years. Substantial imbalances across trade partners and products remained at the end of 2021, and not all of the accumulated losses from the earlier steep declines were recuperated. The heterogeneity of trade impacts and changes in trade flows across products, sources and destinations signifies high uncertainty and adjustment costs, and implies additional incentives for consumers, firms and governments to adopt new — or to intensify existing — risk mitigation strategies.
This brief focuses on the role carbon pricing can play in the COVID-19 recovery and in reaching national and international climate goals, such as those in the Paris Agreement. It outlines the carbon pricing policy changes (Emissions Trading Schemes (ETS), fossil fuel support (FFS), carbon, fuel excise and aviation taxes) that took place during the first 20 months of the pandemic (January 2020 to August 2021) in the 47 OECD and G20 countries. There had been 99 incidents of carbon pricing policy changes during this period, with the majority expected to have a negative effect on greenhouse gas emissions. However, policy changes with climate-positive effects were broader in scope regarding coverage of emissions and sectors and are, thus, likely to outweigh the climate-negative policy changes.
The recovery from the COVID‑19 pandemic is likely to trigger job reallocation between sectors and occupations and, with it, a need to provide career guidance and advice to adults in need of upskilling and reskilling. But the crisis has also resulted in a sudden shift in much of the delivery of career guidance from in-person to remote. This policy brief describes the impact of the pandemic on the demand for and the delivery of career guidance, documents countries’ efforts to maintain provision of career guidance services during lockdowns, and explores the need to scale up career guidance going forward. Given the importance of career guidance in keeping workers’ skills relevant and improving the match between the demand and supply of skills, this brief also offers policy directions to improve its coverage, use and quality.
This policy brief documents how bi- and tri-partite social dialogue at different levels, including collective bargaining, is shaping and implementing measures that support a job-rich recovery – both by assisting workers in moving from declining to expanding job sectors in response to structural change and by retaining experienced workers when needed, so that production responds to increases in demand.
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While the COVID-19 pandemic has hit different countries with varying intensity, responding to the crisis has presented an unprecedented challenge to most governments. In this context, evaluations provide critical tools to support real time sharing of lessons on what is working, what is not, what could work and for whom. This paper draws lessons from evaluations that governments have carried out themselves of their COVID-19 responses. It provides a synthesis of the evidence from 67 such evaluations produced in OECD countries during the first 15 months of the pandemic. These first evaluations show that many governments came to similar conclusions, and allow us to identify important insights that can feed into ongoing policy responses to the crisis – as well as increase future resilience.
Taking gender considerations into account when designing and implementing green recovery measures can contribute both to reducing gender inequalities and achieving environmental objectives. This paper maps the limited presence of gender-sensitive measures in the OECD Green Recovery Database, identifies additional policy areas where gender sensitivity would be beneficial, and proposes policy actions to help countries align their commitments to gender equality and environmental objectives during the COVID-19 recovery.
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COVID‑19 hit the long-term care sector hard. This brief looks at mortality rates in care homes, as well as the policy responses undertaken during the pandemic. The brief assesses the emergency preparedness of the sector and highlights the lessons learned, including policies to reduce isolation, testing strategies, care workforce and co‑ordination with the health care sector.
The recession shadowing the COVID-19 pandemic has been frequently characterised as a “shecession,” implying disproportionately negative effects for women. Yet the crisis might more accurately be called a “momcession,” as women’s work losses were driven in large part by the outcomes of mothers specifically. The OECD’s 2020 Risks that Matter survey presents cross-national evidence that when schools and childcare facilities shut down, mothers took on the brunt of additional unpaid care work – and, correspondingly, they experienced labour market penalties and stress. These findings serve as another reminder that governments must consider inequalities in unpaid work and take a gender-sensitive approach when building their policy responses to the COVID-19 crisis.
The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered necessary large scale emergency government support for businesses and industries. The design and implementation of this support is crucial in avoiding domestic and international market distortions in the medium- and long-term. This brief considers ways to ensure that short-term crisis responses do not result in unintended negative implications for competition and trade in the medium- and long-term. It highlights the competition and trade policy tools governments can use to effectively balance the needs of the COVID-19 pandemic response while ensuring that this response does not undermine efforts to maintain a level playing field, domestically and globally.
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In 2020, the agriculture and food sector experienced significant supply chain disruptions due to the COVID-19 crisis and associated lockdown measures. Yet relatively limited economic impacts were observed on the sector due to the agility of producers, supply chain actors and retailers, but also to the rapid and broad response by governments. Close to 800 measures were undertaken by governments in 54 developed and emerging countries, aimed to avoid aggravating disruptions, absorb supply and demand shocks, provide relief to affected producers and consumers, or to bolster the recovery of affected production activities. At least USD 157 billion was earmarked to the agriculture sector to support these measures, with a large part going to food assistance. As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on this sector subsides, policy makers will need to pivot and shift spending to investments that can enhance sector-wide resilience.
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Regulation is one of the key tools governments can use to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and move towards recovery. While the pandemic underscores the need for well-designed, evidence-based regulatory policies, the extraordinary pressures it imposed often forced governments to shorten procedures and launch new forms of co-ordination to urgently pass regulatory measures. This can make regulatory policy making more challenging, but also provides opportunities to innovate. This policy brief analyses how Southeast Asian (SEA) countries approached these challenges and opportunities, and shares lessons learned and practices among the SEA and OECD communities.
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