IZA Discussion Paper No. 13136

The COVID-19 Conundrum in the Developing World: Protecting Lives or Protecting Jobs?

It is almost certain that the world economy is entering a recession of historic proportions; how bad things get will depend on how governments manage the Covid-19 pandemic. At the core of the problem lies a very difficult choice: whether to “flatten the curve” of the epidemic or whether to flatten the curve of the recession. It is unlikely that both can be achieved and, in this case, it is better to address the tradeoff heads-on rather than try to ignore it or assume it doesn’t exist. Because developing countries are less prepared to deal with the consequences of an economic downturn, they might not be able to afford “social distancing” policies for extended periods.

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