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Statement May 29, 2020

Media Advisory: World Bank Issues New Notes on Health, Poverty, Education, Labor, Social Protection, and Air Quality in Western Balkans

Washington, May 29, 2020 – A new series of notes from the World Bank, looking at the impacts of COVID-19 on health systems, poverty and household welfare, education, social protection, labor markets, and air quality management in the Western Balkans, is now available.

These notes complement the recently released Western Balkans Regular Economic Report and accompanying Country Notes - launched on April 29 - and show how the macroeconomic impact of COVID-19 is projected to affect people in the region.

The latest notes are:

The World Bank estimates that, in the absence of government responses, more than 400,000 people in the region could fall into poverty and the middle class would shrink substantially. Many of those who could become impoverished are not currently receiving social protection and informal workers without access to unemployment insurance and other support are particularly at risk.

Compared to the EU average, the low and inefficient spending per person on health prior to the crisis makes the region especially vulnerable to this and future public health outbreaks. High air pollution in several major cities, and the associated higher rate of respiratory diseases, exacerbate this vulnerability, especially if an outbreak recurs next winter. Furthermore, the necessary closure of schools to reduce the virus spread will lead to considerable learning losses which may take years to recover from: it is estimated that those without basic proficiency in reading may increase from the current 53 percent to 61 percent, if school closures extend till end June. The education impact will disproportionately affect the disadvantaged, with a larger share of students falling back into functional illiteracy and potentially dropping out of school altogether.

All reports are available at: https://www.worldbank.org/eca/wbrer