The Social Protection response to the COVID-19 crisis in GCC countries: Analysis and Lessons for building shock-responsive Social Protection Systems

Start Date: Close Date:


The overall goal of this project was to map social protection responses to the COVID-19 pandemic implemented by four countries of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates


UNICEF Gulf Area Office


Middle East and North Africa

Bahrain , Kuwait , Saudi Arabia , United Arab Emirates

Main Pillar

Knowledge Production

Thematic Area

Social Protection

Other Thematic Areas

Social Protection

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG 1 - No Poverty

Project Results

Background and scope of work:

COVID-19 has aggravated vulnerabilities for at-risk groups, including low income and female-headed households, people with special needs or disabilities, unemployed persons, particularly women, young people and children, older persons, and migrants in vulnerable situations with limited access to health and other social protection services. In response to the extraordinary threat that COVID-19 has posed to the global economy and to individual lives and livelihoods, all GCC governments have enacted exceptional fiscal and monetary policy measures with different social protection packages, mostly focused on protecting their citizen’s employment and livelihood. Though the response has been immediate and substantial, solid evidence is still needed to understand how effective and equitable these interventions and strategies have been. 

Against this background the IPC-IG team developed a report which:

  • Documents the social assistance responses and mechanisms implemented by four GCC countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and UAE) in response to the pandemic.
  • Provides an overview of the specific aspects of programme design created or used to reach the most vulnerable and those at risk of being left behind in the face of the pandemic.
  • Assesses the extent to which measures implemented had child-sensitive elements.
  • Gathers lessons from the responses to the current crisis – both successes and gaps exposed – that indicate how more shock-responsive social protection systems should be built.
  • Carries out a (light) comparative analysis of the GCC countries’ social protection responses with the experiences of other high-income, in part commodity-based, economies (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Singapore).