Q & A

COVID-19 Stimulus Tracker
FAQs on content and use, data sources, and methodology

Content and use

The COVID-19 Stimulus Tracker covers social protection and economic policy responses of the Governments of the Member States of the United Nations (193).

The World Bank classification of income (2020) and geographic region is used. The Tracker also presents information for selected regions used by the United Nations regional commissions, as defined by ESCWA and ECA.

Regions (Geographic Classification) Classified regions Income classification
East Asia and the Pacific South and South-West Asia High income (HIC)
Europe and Central Asia North Africa Upper middle income (UMIC)
Latin America and the Caribbean Southern Africa Lower middle income (LMIC)
Middle East and North Africa The Caribbean Low income (LIC)
North America South America
South Asia North and Central Asia
Africa (without North Africa) The Pacific
Central America
West Africa
South-East Asia
East Africa
Central Africa
East and North-East Asia
Arab region

A country can be part of multiple regions in the classified regions. For example, Egypt is part of the Middle East and North Africa, North Africa, and the Arab region. Therefore, aggregation of information using classified regions is not advisable. Aggregation of information using the geographic classification of regions is fine. For the purpose of visualization, lower and upper middle income countries are clubbed together as middle income countries.

The Tracker includes COVID-19 related social protection and economic policy responses announced by Governments (government fiscal support) and central banks (central bank liquidity support). It also includes the measures taken by other entities (e.g., international financial institutions and United Nations entities) in the case of conflict-affected countries. The corresponding dates and source links are available for all announcements in the Tracker. Measures that are announced or implemented by non-government entities, domestic or international, are not part of the Tracker.

A policy measure is a direct response announced by the Government, the Central Bank, or Other entity. There are 44 policy measures in this Tracker clustered around seven policy categories, as presented in the Track, namely; Social Assistance, Loan and tax benefit, Social Insurance, Labour Markets, Health-related support, Financial policy support, and general policy support. Each policy measure is mapped to a policy category. The policy measures corresponding to policy categories are described in the following table.

Policy category (brief description) Policy measures
1. Social assistance
Social assistance measures are generally non-contributory, consisting of measure that are financed out of general government revenue and provided either to selected groups (targeted) or to everyone (universal).
1.1 Cash transfers/income support (includes targeted public works programmes)
1.2 In-kind transfers/vouchers (includes school feeding)
1.3 Rent and housing subsidies
1.4 Waiver/reduction of utilities bills (e.g. water and gas, electricity and communication bills)
1.5 Waiver/reduction of government fees
1.6 Other subsidies for social services (specify)
2. Loan and tax benefit (to individuals)
In the context of COVID-19, the loan and tax benefit measures include exemption or reduction of taxes and customs duties on basic goods and medicine, as well as debt relief measures to individuals.
2.1 Tax exemption/reduction/deferment for individuals
2.2 Waiver/reduction of customs duties for individual
2.3 Interest rate waiver/reduction for individual loan
2.4 Interest/principal deferment/reduction for individual loans
3. Social insurance
Social insurance measures are generally contributory, financed by contributions paid by employers and employees. Eligibility for benefits is limited to contributors. Informal workers and economically inactive persons tend to be excluded.
3.1 Social insurance contributions/waivers
3.2 Unemployment benefits
3.3 Sick leave
3.4 Paid parental leave
3.5 Health insurance
3.6 Pensions
3.7 Disability pension
4. Labour market
The measures under labour market include employment retention measures, activation courses and adjustment of labour regulation in the context of COVID-19 to protect the health and financial stability of employees.
4.1 Wage subsidies to employers against layoffs
4.2 Paid leave or work from home
4.3 Labour regulation adjustments
4.4 Work hours adjustment
4.5 Activation (Training)
5. Health related support
Health related support includes measures in the areas of supporting healthcare facilities including stock of medicines, targeted health related support, free care for coronavirus patients and awareness campaigns on COVID-19.
5.1 Targeted health related support
5.2 Stocks of basic goods and medicine
5.3 Covid-19 awareness campaigns
5.4 Healthcare system
6. Financial policy support
Financial support measures aim at supporting SMEs and non-SME businesses, including cash-flow assistance, liquidity measures, and other financial assistance. Some liquidity measures also benefit individuals and the wider economy.
6.1 Cash-flow assistance (including compensations against cancellation of events or loss of fixed assets)
6.2 Liquidity support (setting up or enhancing financing facilities)
6.3 Cash reserve ratio reduction
6.4 Interest rate reduction
6.5 Soft loans & credit support
6.6 Lowering risk weights of certain assets/collateral requirements
6.7 Loans and interest deferment for SMEs/non-SMEs business
6.8 Tax exemption/reduction/deferment for SMEs/ non-SMEs business
6.9 Waiver of customs duties for SMEs/ non-SMEs business
6.10 Rental subsidies to SMEs/ non-SMEs business
6.11 Waiver/reduction of government fees to SMEs/ non-SMEs business
6.12 Price controls for essential food and medicine
7. General policy support
General policy support measures are not targeted but in the interest of wider economic support to people and businesses.
7.1 Government spending (fiscal expansion)
7.2 Creation/expansion of a fund
7.3 Research and development expenditure
7.4 ICT and digital solutions (Note: e.g. internet capacity, digital platforms, remote working, online schooling, free software and e-services)
7.5 Enhancing food security
7.6 Other support (specify)

Global stimulus is the first page of the Tracker, which presents an overview of fiscal support and the beneficiaries, in addition to key indicators of the socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on job losses, GDP losses and the Stringency Index (at the global level as default). The user can filter any region or country of interest from this overview page.

Each announcement includes a host of policy measures planned, underway, and/or implemented. As new information comes in regarding policy measures planned, underway, and/or implemented, it is updated in the Tracker.

Policy announcements often do not spell out fiscal support (allocation) to each policy measure. Announcements often lump up policy measures and amounts, sometimes announcements of fiscal support can be across multiple policy categories. In cases where more than one measure was selected during data entry for a given announcement or a given amount of support, the Tracker visualizes these as “multiple policies”, which implies that the disaggregated amount of support for each policy measure is not available. The amount of support is for the basket of policy measures within one policy category or across different policy categories, which are referred to as fiscal support for “multiple policies”. Users can find the specific policy measures from policy details in the Excel dataset. Each policy measure is registered, without money attached to it, for the purpose of counting the policy measures.

The Tracker tags each amount of support to its intended beneficiary – people or business. In total, there are 28 possible beneficiaries in the Tracker. However, the disaggregated amount of support to each target beneficiary is not available in several policy announcements. In cases where more than one beneficiary is selected during data entry, based on the information in a given announcement or for a given amount of support, the Tracker visualizes these as “multiple beneficiaries”. Users can find the specific beneficiaries from policy details in the Excel dataset. The broad classification of beneficiary details for the purpose of visualization is given below.

Target beneficiary Disaggregation of beneficiaries
1. People
1.1 Children and adolescents
1.2 Employees and self-employed (employees, self-employed and professionals)
1.3 Older persons
1.4 Unemployed
1.6 Women (including employees, entrepreneurs, and victims of gender-based violence against women)
1.5 Other Individuals and families (young people, students, generally referring individuals, families and households including categorically targeted)
1.6 Specific vulnerable population (including migrants, refugees and stateless persons, indigenous people, Corona virus patients, persons with disabilities, people in prison, homeless people, poor households, and female headed households)
2. SMEs (business)
2.1 SMEs
3. Non-SMEs (business)
3.1 Non-SMEs
4. SMEs/Non-SMEs (non-disaggregated) 4.1 SMEs/Non-SMEs (non-disaggregated)
5. People/business (non-disaggregated)
5.1 People/business (non-disaggregated)

The “amount of support” is the total United States dollar value (allocated/spent) by a Government, Central Bank, or other entity tagged to a given announcement and/or its corresponding policy measure. The announcement is generally in local currency, which is converted to United States dollars using the exchange rate of the last day of 2020 for every country.

The stringency index score is provided by the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker. It varies between 0 (no lockdown/stringency) and 100 (complete lockdown/stringency). The higher the score, the higher the adverse impact on jobs and incomes. According to the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker, the nine metrics used to calculate the Stringency Index are school closures; workplace closures; cancellation of public events; restrictions on public gatherings; closures of public transport; stay-at-home requirements; public information campaigns; restrictions on internal movements; and international travel controls.

The radar chart shows the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 and fiscal support in 2020. It shows the level of stringent measures, which is an index based on the strict lockdown measures, such as school closures, workplace closures, travel bans, and other containment measures; the employment effect measured by the loss of working hours (weekly percentage); the economic effect measured by the loss of GDP per capita ($), and the government fiscal support (percentage of GDP) in response to COVID-19. Level of stringent measures shows the percentage of days in a week, on average in 2020, with a stringency index score above 60 per cent (SI>0.6).

Loss of working hours (weekly percentage) represents the percentage of hours lost, on average in 2020, due to COVID-19 related stringent measures compared to the baseline working hours in a normal week (such as the fourth quarter of 2019). For more information, refer to ILO.

Loss of GDP per capita ($) shows the economic impact of the pandemic in terms of loss of GDP per capita between 2019 and 2020, estimated from IMF.

Government fiscal support (percentage of GDP) shows the government fiscal support provided by the Government to people and businesses to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 relative to their GDP in 2020. The fiscal support is taken from the COVID-19 policy responses in the COVID-19 Stimulus Tracker.

A key feature of the Tracker is that the data on social protection policy measures/categories are harmonized across regions to facilitate regional and global comparisons, and a knowledge platform for Governments and practitioners for peer learning, follow up and informing policy. With its wealth of information, the Tracker is an important reference to inform countries about good practices and country/region responses.

Data Sources and Methodology

All the policy announcements come from official sources, including government official websites, State media, intergovernmental and international organizations, like IMF, World Bank and other United Nations agencies.

Special effort has been made to consult the IMF Policy Responses to COVID-19 Tracker, several Gentilini Reports (as updated), the ILO, the ECLAC COVID-19 Observatory in Latin America and the Caribbean, the ESCAP Tracker, the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT) and the COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker (UNDP, UNWOMEN, and others).

All regional/global averages (percentage of GDP) are weighted, calculated as a sum of the amount of support upon total GDP 2020 (for region/income group or world). The GDP values are taken from the IMF World Economic Outlook database.

Financial needs refer to a shortfall of a country’s fiscal support, as a share of GDP, to its people and economy by taking into consideration three different benchmarks, such as global average fiscal support (percentage of GDP), high-income countries average fiscal support (percentage of GDP), and middle-income countries average fiscal support (percentage of GDP). The gap between the benchmark level and actual fiscal support presents the minimum financial needs to support people and economy. Higher financial needs indicate a country’s lack of adequate fiscal space to extend support. Similarly, the information is aggregated at the regional level to show regional financial needs.

Currently, the Tracker covers data from 4 February 2020 to 15 May 2021.

There may be two reasons:

a. a. First, the value of the percentage of GDP is only accurate to two decimal places, so if the money spent on COVID-19 is less than 0.005 per cent of GDP, it will show 0.00 per cent (any value greater than 0.005 per cent would round-up to 0.01 per cent).

b. b. If you have information that you feel might not have been captured in the Tracker, please share it with the Tracker team along with a credible source link for consideration.

There may be two reasons:

a. It could be an issue of different naming of policy measures since the Tracker adopts a harmonized naming system as mentioned in the table of Q4.

b. If you have information that you feel was not have captured in the Tracker, please share it with the Tracker team along with a credible source link for consideration.

Each policy measure is reviewed on the basis of whether it targets women beneficiaries like mothers and pregnant women, homeless persons, victims of gender-based violence, or measures that seek to directly address gendered risks and challenges caused by the COVID-19. If it does, the measure is tagged as gender-responsive. Given the mapping framework of fiscal and social protection policy responses, a complete mapping of all types of gender-responsive measures is beyond the scope of the Tracker.

In this sense, gender-responsive measures include measures that support women’s economic security, like social protection measures that target women or prioritize them as the main recipients of benefits; labour market measures aimed at improving women’s access to paid work and trainings; and measures to support pregnant women , homeless persons, victims of gender-based violence, care of dependent populations and unpaid care work done predominantly by women, in addition to fiscal and economic measures that channel support to female-dominated sectors of the economy.

Each policy measure is reviewed on the basis of whether it targets care of dependent populations (children, elderly, disabled persons or those with a chronic illness) and unpaid care work done predominantly by women. If it does, the measure is tagged as a care services measure. The care services measures are gender-responsive in all cases in the Tracker. Given the mapping framework of fiscal and social protection policy responses, a complete mapping of all types of care services measures is beyond the scope of the Tracker

The targeted health services measure is distinguished from the other health-related support measures of the Tracker in that it captures only short-to-medium term efforts to provide physical and mental health services that will slow or manage the spread of COVID-19 and its health-related effects, such as purchase/production of COVID-19 tests or hygiene kits and provisions for free testing, and psychological or psychosocial support, among others. In some cases, the targeted health services will include a care services component, such as when the testing, vaccination, psychological or psychosocial support is specifically provided for dependent populations (especially older or chronically persons). In such cases they are tagged accordingly as care services measures.

The Tracker adopts a fixed exchange rate as of 31 December 2020 for each country.

Social assistance measures are generally “non-contributory” while social insurance measures are generally “contributory”. However, there are instances in which the pattern deviates for some cases. These instances are reviewed and determined on a case-by-case basis, after carefully examining the policy announcement and implementation details from the official sources.

Navigating details

A guidance video has been prepared to show users how to navigate the Tracker for specific information by region/country. Please click on the above link to watch it.

Yes. To download data from the Tracker, click on the Data Display and Download Tab, make your data selection using the respective filters for the region, country, income group, policy, indicator and download file format, and wait for the system to gather a preview of the data. Depending on your bandwidth, this may take several minutes. Please refresh the page and repeat the above steps, where necessary. Once you are satisfied with the preview, click on download.

Yes. To access the database and see more details of a specific policy, please click on the Data Display and Download Tab, make your data selection using the respective filters for the region, country, income group and policy, then wait for the system to gather a preview of the data. Depending on your bandwidth, this may take several minutes. Please refresh the page and repeat the above steps, where necessary. Once you are satisfied with the preview, select the specific policy to view details.

No. However, in line with standard scientific research standards and ethics, users of data from the Tracker are expected to cite the Tracker as its source. We encourage online publications to embed our interactive charts. This is easy to do and you can trust that the embedded chart will not break — all links are stable.

It would be highly appreciated to hear how our work has been helpful to you and see how you used it.

The Tracker has ensured sources and undertaken multiple verification processes for all information. However, owing to the dynamic nature of policy responses to the pandemic and its frequent updates in terms of announcements or implementation measures, a full validation process is not always feasible. To provide information on national measures to be taken into consideration in the Tracker, please contact escwa-ciu@un.org

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