The Consequences of COVID-19 on Livelihoods in Barbados: Results of a Telephone Survey

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Oct 2020
We conducted a telephone-based nationally representative survey of Barbados between May and June 2020. The main objective was to quantify the early consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. We document significant labor market disruptions with relatively more severe consequences among low income households. In addition, we present for the first time objective financial literacy measures. The findings suggest that increased financial literacy is correlated with more resilience to the detrimental consequences of the pandemic. In terms of policymaking, the results point to the following recommendations. First, job protection and business support will be important to bridge the gap that the country will experience until it can completely reopen, and tourism can safely start again. Existing measures to promote employment should be maintained and further prioritized going forward. Second, means to support financial resilience are important for households to better cope during the period, whether in the form of savings or greater financial literacy. These two issues should be further prioritized in the government’s strategy going forward to cushion people from shocks. Finally, the social protection system has been the most vital tool to support the population during these hard times. Despite some leakage, the new programs showed signs of better targeting and are the most important lifeline for many in the country. Maintaining these programs and improving their efficiency and targeting will be of outmost importance in this crisis. Going forward, we recommend generating more evidence on the severity and length of the shock, as well as improving the understanding of how to better target social assistance programs to provide efficient and sustainable support to Barbados citizens.

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