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International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic plunged the world into a sharp recession in the first half of 2020. Service sector activity, which relies on person-to-person contact, took a big hit. Manufacturing also weakened substantially, and global trade plummeted. Global growth is projected at –4.4 percent in 2020, 0.6 percentage points above the June 2020 World Economic Outlook Update forecast. The upgrade reflects a better second quarter outturn in major countries that eased lockdowns earlier than expected. The recovery is projected to be more gradual than previously forecast. In 2021 global growth is projected at 5.2 percent, 0.3 percentage point lower than projected in June 2020, reflecting the persistence of social distancing into 2021.

International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept

Abstract

This chapter uses new data and novel modeling techniques to examine the effect of containment and policy measures in affecting the health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept

Abstract

This chapter shows, based on high-frequency labor surveys, that inequality is increasing further during the COVID-19 pandemic because job losses have been concentrated among low-income workers. Moreover, the experience from past pandemics suggests that the adverse distributional effects could be even larger in the medium term—including, looking ahead, through the displacement of low-skilled workers by robots—and that the resulting higher levels of inequality could undermine social cohesion. This is especially salient for countries with already high inequality going into this crisis. Information from the IMF Policy Tracker shows that many Asian governments have implemented significant fiscal policy measures to mitigate the pandemic’s effect on the most vulnerable, with the impact depending on the initial coverage of safety nets, fiscal space, and degree of informality and digitalization. Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution, the model-based analysis shows that policies targeted to where needs are greatest are effective in mitigating adverse distributional consequences and underpinning overall economic activity and virus containment.

IMF Research Perspective (formerly published as IMF Research Bulletin) is a new, redesigned online newsletter covering updates on IMF research. In the inaugural issue of the newsletter, Hites Ahir interviews Valeria Cerra; and they discuss the economic environment 10 years after the global financial crisis. Research Summaries cover the rise of populism; economic reform; labor and technology; big data; and the relationship between happiness and productivity. Sweta C. Saxena was the guest editor for this inaugural issue.
Cristian Alonso, Mr. Andrew Berg, Siddharth Kothari, Mr. Chris Papageorgiou, and Sidra Rehman
This paper considers the implications for developing countries of a new wave of technological change that substitutes pervasively for labor. It makes simple and plausible assumptions: the AI revolution can be modeled as an increase in productivity of a distinct type of capital that substitutes closely with labor; and the only fundamental difference between the advanced and developing country is the level of TFP. This set-up is minimalist, but the resulting conclusions are powerful: improvements in the productivity of “robots” drive divergence, as advanced countries differentially benefit from their initially higher robot intensity, driven by their endogenously higher wages and stock of complementary traditional capital. In addition, capital—if internationally mobile—is pulled “uphill”, resulting in a transitional GDP decline in the developing country. In an extended model where robots substitute only for unskilled labor, the terms of trade, and hence GDP, may decline permanently for the country relatively well-endowed in unskilled labor.
Mr. Andrew Berg, Mr. Edward F Buffie, and Luis-Felipe Zanna
We may be on the cusp of a “second industrial revolution” based on advances in artificial intelligence and robotics. We analyze the implications for inequality and output, using a model with two assumptions: “robot” capital is distinct from traditional capital in its degree of substitutability with human labor; and only capitalists and skilled workers save. We analyze a range of variants that reflect widely different views of how automation may transform the labor market. Our main results are surprisingly robust: automation is good for growth and bad for equality; in the benchmark model real wages fall in the short run and eventually rise, but “eventually” can easily take generations.
International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept

Abstract

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is still unfolding around the globe. In Asia, as elsewhere, the virus has ebbed in some countries but surged in others. The global economy is beginning to recover after a sharp contraction in the second quarter of 2020, as nationwide lockdowns are lifted and replaced with more targeted containment measures.