The ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has been a game changer for economic inclusion. For the first time in two decades, extreme poverty is on the rise, with the latest predictions that up to 160 million people will be pushed into poverty in 2021. The pandemic has the biggest effects on the poor and vulnerable, and early evidence suggests disproportionate gender impacts. Economic inclusion programs face the dual challenge of adapting delivery norms during a pandemic and ensuring readiness to respond as part of the medium- and longterm recovery efforts.
As governments and development partners seek solutions to strengthen resilience and recovery, economic inclusion programs are on the rise. Over 60 countries are now leveraging WBG financing for social protection in their scale up efforts for economic inclusion – recognizing the growing prominence of “cash plus” interventions in social protection support. The global learning and experimentation under way in a variety of contexts and across many partner organizations are a fertile landscape for learning and adaptation.
Against this backdrop, this report summarizes PEI’s progress toward its three result areas: (1) the adaptation of scaled governmentled economic inclusion programs; (2) the promotion of evidence-based learning across government and partner organizations; and (3) the strengthening of partnerships and alliances across PEI to support the ongoing expansion of economic inclusion programming.
Overall, PEI’s results have been strong. At the country level, governments are making significant strides toward scaling up economic inclusion approaches, relying on financial, technical, knowledge, and partnership support facilitated by PEI. Although COVID-19 has presented several challenges, it has also revealed an opportunity.
Several governments are now more keenly aware of the potential of economic inclusion programming as part of a longer-term policy response in terms of supporting informal workers, promoting sustainable livelihoods, and increasing the productivity of informal operators.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also brought into sharper focus the need for stronger knowledge creation, learning, and innovation around economic inclusion approaches—a central focus of PEI’s mission in supporting the scale-up of economic inclusion programs globally. PEI has had a breakout year promoting innovation, learning, and knowledge, anchored by PEI’s The State of Economic Inclusion Foreword Global Learning Event, and numerous peerto-peer knowledge dissemination and sharing activities.
Finally, critical to PEI’s mandate and the way it operates is a partnering approach. PEI brings together diverse stakeholders to forge the kind of alliance building and collaborative collective effort needed to fulfill the ambitious mandate of scaling up economic inclusion of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations. Here, too, PEI made significant strides, formalizing a technical partnership base and deeply engaging new funding partners and other organizations in all of its efforts.
Looking forward, PEI now enters a second phase of work programming spanning the years 2021 to 2025. During this time, efforts to strengthen government-led operations will be intensified through continued investment in country programs. Several thematic priorities will drive this engagement, including the promotion of resilience and climate adaptation, women’s economic empowerment, and the ongoing recovery from COVID-19. PEI will build on the momentum to date by investing in an Innovation and Learning Hub to track real-time operational learning and longerterm evidence assessment.
PEI thanks its many stakeholders for their support during PEI’s first phase of programming, and looks forward to continued learning in the common mission to support the scale-up of costeffective and sustainable economic inclusion programs for the poorest in the years to come.