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Public employment programmes in the time of COVID-19

COVID-19 has quickly morphed from an unprecedented health crisis to a massive economic shock—and, unless immediate and decisive action is taken to sustain consumption levels and prevent disruptions to food supply chains, it could easily lead into a global food crisis. Public employment programmes (PEP) - which refer to a wide array of interventions including public works, cash for work, and temporary or emergency employment programmes - have a long track record of deployment in response to cyclical shocks, seasonal deprivation, and severe macro-economic crisis involving sharp income loss and large under- and unemployment.

PEPs, in fact, have a key role to play not only in the short term, by mitigating the impact of the public health emergency and its economic fallout, but also in the medium and longer term, by helping rural households and economies weather the effects of the looming economic recession and recover in the post-pandemic. Well designed, PEPs can help boost both the public health, social protection and macroeconomic responses to the crisis. This brief aims to shed light on the important role of PEPs as a social protection instrument for reducing poverty and effectively responding to and recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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