Nicholas Bloom, Paul Mizen, Shivani Taneja, 15 June 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a collective shift to working from home. This column argues that though the shift was surprisingly easy, returning to the office will be hard. New evidence from a survey of 2,500 employees in the UK shows a preference in favour of home working 2-3 days a week, with lingering concerns of overcrowded transport and offices. But allowing workers to choose when to work from home will leave empty offices Monday and Friday, and many tasks such as large group meetings are more effective in person than online. Hybrid working will be the solution.

Xuepeng Liu, Emanuel Ornelas, Huimin Shi, 09 June 2021

Worldwide merchandise trade flows decreased significantly in 2020, as Covid-19 disrupted economic activity across the globe. This column analyses how various pandemic-related factors shaped international trade flows. Specifically, it estimates how Covid-19 incidence and lockdown restrictions affected the monthly year-over-year growth of imports from China for all destinations to which China exported goods in 2019–2020. It finds that government measures to curb economic activities had a larger impact on a country’s imports than the direct health and behavioural effects of the pandemic itself.

Dimitris Christelis, Dimitris Georgarakos, Tullio Jappelli, Geoff Kenny, 08 June 2021

The coronavirus pandemic has generated a complex economic shock that has affected households across the euro area very differently. This column uses survey data from around 10,000 households across Europe to reveal substantial divergences in the pandemic-induced financial concerns of households across population subgroups and countries. Financial concerns are significantly greater for younger, female, and low-income individuals in countries where the first wave of Covid-19 was more severe.

Christian Bogmans, Andrea Pescatori, Ervin Prifti, 05 June 2021

Global food security is being threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictive measures to control it. Jammed food supply chains, falling incomes for some population segments, and rising food prices are placing food out of reach for millions of individuals. This column discusses the short-run relationship between food (in)security and income and food prices, and the implications of the current economic crisis for global hunger. The pandemic’s economic fallout risks setting us back a full decade on eliminating undernourishment, especially in low-income countries. Governments should strengthen social safety nets for the most vulnerable to keep inequality in check.

Bill English, Ángel Ubide, 04 June 2021

How well has monetary policy coped with the challenge of Covid-19?Central banks get good grades in a new VoxEU ebook. But Bill English and Angel Ubide warn Tim Phillips that success today may lead to problems in future.

Download the new eBook here: Monetary Policy and Central Banking in the Covid Era

Davide Furceri, Prakash Loungani, Jonathan D. Ostry, Pietro Pizzuto, 03 June 2021

In the aftermath of past pandemics, fiscal policy played an important role in reducing or amplifying income inequality. This column predicts the likely distributional effects of Covid-19 by analysing evidence from five previous outbreaks (SARS, H1N1, MERS, Ebola, and Zika). It finds that severe austerity measures were associated with inequality increases three times greater than expansive fiscal policy following a pandemic. Premature austerity is self-defeating from both a macro and an equity standpoint.

Bill English, Kristin Forbes, Ángel Ubide, 03 June 2021

As Covid-19 spread in early 2020, many central banks were still struggling to boost inflation. The abruptness and speed of the economic deterioration, the sharp increase in market volatility, and the blinding uncertainty over the impact of the pandemic motivated a central bank reaction that was unprecedented in terms of size, speed and scope. A new CEPR eBook summarises the responses by sixteen central banks from both advanced and emerging economies – with chapters written by senior central bank officials and economists in each of the countries to explain the actions taken. While responses varied across countries, there are several common threads: the size, speed and breadth of the responses; the reliance on a more multidimensional set of tools; and the ability of emerging markets to behave more like advanced economies.

Geraldine Blanchard-Rohner, Bruno Caprettini, Dominic Rohner, Hans-Joachim Voth, 01 June 2021

As COVID-19 vaccination programmes accelerate across the industrialised world, vaccination hesitancy is rapidly emerging as a key challenge. This column explores the relationship between pre-pandemic intensive care unit capacity and attitudes towards the COVID-19 vaccine in the UK. Despite widespread pre-pandemic scepticism about vaccines in general, willingness to become vaccinated against COVID-19 overall was strikingly high, even amongst those who rejected vaccines before the pandemic. The results point to a surprising synergy: where the emergency care systems of public healthcare providers were less strained during the early days of the COVID-19 epidemic, vaccination hesitancy is systematically less today. 

Philipp Hartmann, Stefano Borgioli, Alina Kempf, Philippe Molitor, Francesco Paolo Mongelli, 28 May 2021

The coronavirus health crisis also had a strong impact on financial systems. This column discusses its effects on euro area financial integration and financial structure. It illustrates how decisive monetary, fiscal and prudential policy responses first contained and then reversed the initial sharp fragmentation in asset prices across member countries. Overall cross-border asset holdings, however, still have to recover. The emerging alignment between common monetary and fiscal measures through the adoption of the three European safety nets and the Next Generation EU recovery programme seem to have been a game-changer in this regard. The resilience of financial re-integration to potential future shocks to the Economic and Monetary Union, however, should be monitored going forward. The different phases of the pandemic also went along with sizeable shifts between different corporate financing tools and different financial intermediaries. 

Mario Crucini, Oscar O’Flaherty, 29 May 2021

Throughout much of 2020, the Trump administration deferred decision making regarding stay-at-home orders to the state and local level. The data-driven analysis in this column suggests that a national stay-at-home order at the onset of the pandemic, when the virus was spreading primarily in a small group of cities, may have imposed earlier and deeper economic costs on states with relatively low case numbers without any corresponding reduction in infection rates in such states. But as the virus spread more uniformly across the country in the last several months of 2020, a nationwide order seemed more appropriate. The findings demonstrate the value of public policy discretion at the state and local level when it comes to implementing stay-at-home orders with the simultaneous and competing goals of minimising community spread and business dislocation. 

Debora Revoltella, Rolf Strauch, 24 May 2021

Jump-starting investment after Covid-19 is a crucial challenge for the sustainability of the recovery. This column highlights that incentives to re-launch investment remain crucial. Viable and new firms need to have access to additional new financing as we emerge from the crisis. Debt finance cannot be the only option. Incentives for recapitalisation of companies and access to equity or equity-type finance become increasingly important. The legacies of the pandemic in the financial sector need to be worked out quickly. European and government support complementing post-pandemic bank and capital market financing will be critical to a strong and sustained recovery. 

Romesh Vaitilingam, 22 May 2021

There is much debate about whether the patents on Covid-19 vaccines should be waived to allow low-income countries to produce doses for themselves. The IGM Forum at Chicago Booth invited its panels of leading European and US economists to express their views on this issue and the broader challenges of vaccinating the world. As this column reports, a strong majority (87% of the panellists) agrees that rather than waiving intellectual property protection, the rich countries should pay the pharmaceutical companies to manufacture and distribute the vaccines (or to license production and support licensees). A similarly strong majority (89%) considers that the benefits to the rich countries of paying for 12 billion doses and providing them to the rest of the world exceed the costs.

Fozan Fareed, Bastiaan Overvest, 20 May 2021

The COVID-19 crisis may affect future productivity through its impact on business dynamics. This column argues that business dynamics – in particular business entries, exits, and bankruptcies – are slowing down, which can have adverse effects on long-term productivity. Over the course of 2020, fewer new businesses were established than in any ‘normal’ year and fewer closed down than during the Global Crisis in 2009. Most new entrants are self-employed and online businesses, especially in the wholesale and retail trade sector.

Martin Larch, Janis Malzubris, Stefano Santacroce, 19 May 2021

In 2020, EU member states launched massive fiscal measures to mitigate the economic and social fallout of the Covid pandemic. The activation of the severe economic downturn clause of the Stability and Growth Pact, coupled with a decisive intervention of the ECB, offered member states the flexibility to stage their fiscal response. As this column reveals, however, a closer look through the lens of an expenditure benchmark highlights important cross-country differences reflecting deeper issues. Countries with very high debt and/or high sustainability risks are bound by their meagre growth prospects. If unaddressed, future reviews of the EU fiscal rules may buy time, but not solve the underlying issues. 

Daniel Gros, 18 May 2021

Experience with Covid-19 has shown how vaccinating the population as quickly as possible can be of paramount importance, however with fixed contracts the benefits for early delivery of such vaccines are huge for society, but non-existent for suppliers. Daniel Gros (Centre for European Policy Studies) talks to Tim Philips about why vaccine contracts should have incentives for accelerated production built into them.
The paper discussed can be found here:
Covid Economics Issue 77: Incentives for accelerating the production of Covid-19 vaccines in the presence of adjustment costs by Claudius Gros & Daniel Gros 

Hites Ahir, Nicholas Bloom, Davide Furceri, 18 May 2021

The latest update of the World Uncertainty Index indicates that global uncertainty has fallen back to its long-run average after reaching a historical high in 2020. This column describes how this is driven by a significant decline in two key drivers of global uncertainty over the last few years: US–China trade tensions and Brexit negotiations. A sub-index of the World Uncertainty Index, the World Pandemic Uncertainty Index, reveals that uncertainty related to COVID-19 is also starting to subside, especially in developed countries where vaccines rollout has started to pick up. Given this, and because US–China trade and Brexit tensions impacted developed countries more, the authors observe a more salient decline in uncertainty in developed countries than in developing ones.

Eduardo Levy Yeyati, Federico Filippini, 12 May 2021

The long-term social and economic consequences of Covid-19 are uncertain. This column provides a preliminary assessment of the variation in costs across countries and regions, and suggests that developing economies will suffer the most lasting damage. The pandemic has exposed the differential capacity of governments to mitigate health and economic crises and to allocate scarce resources efficiently, while some labour market structures have inhibited government efforts to attenuate the pandemic’s impact – impediments that will also shape comparative recoveries. 

Philipp Hartmann, Glenn Schepens, 12 May 2021

The 2020 ECB Forum on Central Banking addressed some key issues from the ongoing monetary policy strategy review and embedded them in discussions of major structural changes in advanced economies and the post-COVID recovery. In this column, two of the organisers highlight some of the main points from the papers and debates, including whether globalisation is reversing, implications of climate change, options for formulating the ECB's inflation aim, challenges with informal monetary policy communication, relationships between financial stability and monetary policy, how to make a monetary policy framework robust to deflation or inflation traps and the role of fiscal policy for the recovery from the pandemic.

Francesca Caselli, 11 May 2021

Francesca Caselli of the IMF talks to Tim Phillips about evidence for the extent and persistence of pandemic-induced she-cessions, drawing on quarterly data from 38 advanced and emerging market economies, which uncovers significant heterogeneity across countries. In two-thirds of the countries studied, women’s employment rates declined more than men’s, but the differences were short-lived – lasting only a quarter or two on average – and strongly correlated to specific sectors of the economy.

Clara von Bismarck-Osten, Kirill Borusyak, Uta Schӧnberg, 08 May 2021

Deciding whether to close schools to contain the spread of Covid-19 requires balancing the harm such closures inflict on families against their effectiveness in stopping the spread of disease. This column provides evidence from Germany that school closures did not contain infections among young people or adults in the summer of 2020 – when infection rates were low – or during the pandemic’s autumn resurgence. Thus, the benefits of school closures may not outweigh their costs to children and parents, particularly mothers. 

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