How Covid-19 is changing the world: a statistical perspective, Volume III

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We are pleased to present the third volume of “How COVID-19 is changing the world: a statistical perspective”.

Since the release of the first volume in May 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to rage around the world. By mid-March, 2021, countries around the globe had reported over 123 million cases—a nearly five-fold increase since this report’s previous volume—and over 2.7 million deaths attributed to the disease. And while new case loads are currently on the rise again, the global health community has already administered almost 400 million doses of vaccines, at last offering some signs of hope and progress.

Nonetheless, the pandemic continues to present daunting challenges for governments and international organizations. Economic impacts threaten to undo decades of recent progress in poverty reduction, child nutrition and gender equality, and exacerbate efforts to support refugees, migrants, and other vulnerable communities. National and local governments—together with international and private-sector partners—must deploy vaccines as efficiently, safely and equitably as possible while still monitoring for new outbreaks and continuing policies to protect those who do not yet have immunity. Economic recovery efforts are also increasingly urgent as the world begins to pivot to a “post-pandemic” reality. It is becoming increasingly clear that choices made over the next months and years could have impacts for generations to come.

More than ever, the world needs reliable and trustworthy data and statistics to inform these important decisions. The United Nations and all member organizations of the Committee for the Coordination of Statistical Activities (CCSA) collect and make available a wealth of information for assessing the multifaceted impacts of the pandemic. This report updates some of the global and regional trends presented in the first and second volumes and offers a snapshot of how COVID-19 continues to affect the world today across multiple domains. The report also highlights the impact of the pandemic on specific regions and population groups.

It has now been over a year since the pandemic began, and statistics are becoming available that quantify the year-on-year impacts of this terrible crisis and begin to hint at what a recovery and “post-COVID” world might look like. Some key findings include:

  • 8.8 percent of global working hours were lost in 2020, equivalent to 255 million full-time jobs, an amount that is four times greater than the job losses during the 2009 financial crisis.

  • COVID-19 is estimated to have pushed 119-124 million people into poverty in 2020, a substantial increase from earlier estimates.

  • Aviation passenger traffic declined by 60 percent in 2020, while shipping activity—as measured by vessel port calls—likely declined by around 10 percent.

  • The Human Development Index recorded its first drop since 1990 due to the pandemic, which has erased decades of progress in the female labour participation rate.

  • International tourism recorded its worst year ever on record; international tourism declined by 74 percent.

  • CO2 emissions declined 6 percent in 2020 largely attributable to reduced activity in aviation and transport. As countries undertake recovery efforts, many are including green and sustainable targets in their planning.

National statistical systems continue to report daunting challenges to the collection of essential data and production of basic statistics. While many organizations have adapted their methods to some degree, the pandemic has underscored the need to provide sufficient resources, modernize operations, and upgrade critical infrastructure to provide flexibility, particularly in times of crisis.

Many more insights are provided in the individual sections of this publication. As we work to continue providing useful statistical perspectives on the pandemic, we also continue our broader efforts to make the data itself more accessible and useful. This volume is the first in the series to provide the underlying report data in free and open formats. Where available, these resources are indicated with an icon and website link at the end of their respective chapters. Some sections also provide source code.

Lastly, we would like to again give special thanks to the CCSA secretariat (Statistics Division of UN DESA) and to the team at the World Bank for its efforts to edit this collection of statistical information and curate the underlying data. Without their commitment and dedication, this report would not have been possible.