As the world is facing an unprecedented crisis with the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Pacific region has not been as affected as the rest of the world when it comes to infection rates, but the economic implication of the pandemic has been catastrophic across many of the 22 Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs).
During the pandemic, many data are being collected to assess the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 on the Pacific populations. For example, the World Bank is currently implementing High Frequency Surveys on COVID-19 in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands while other organisations, such as ILO, UN Women and UNICEF, are conducting similar Socioeconomic Impact Assessments. In addition to specific surveys to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and labour market, regularly implemented nationally representative surveys, such as Household Income and Expenditure Surveys (HIES) or Labour Force Surveys (LFS), continue to be implemented. Together, the COVID-specific surveys and ongoing conduct of regular surveys will help policy makers and planners to evaluate the impact of COVID-19.
It is, however, important for comparability purposes to have access to pre-COVID-19 baseline information, which will serve as a benchmark to evaluate the impact that the global pandemic has had on Pacific economies and households, and to identify populations that are most vulnerable to the health and economic fallout.
To establish a baseline for impact evaluation, the “Pre-COVID-19 Baseline Metrics” fact sheets have been developed by the Statistics for Development Division of the Pacific Community (SPC). The fact sheets give a snapshot of the socioeconomic situation of 9 PICTs, including: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga and Tuvalu. Populations that are identified as being most vulnerable during the pandemic are those, for instance, who do not have access to private water for hand washing, or those who have respiratory disease. The fact sheets also highlight the education and labour profile of Pacific people and the source and types of foods that were mainly consumed prior to the pandemic. The fact sheets were produced mainly using the most recent HIES data from the 9 countries.
The production of the fact sheets was funded through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) projects FIS/2016/300 and FIS/2018/155. SPC would like to gratefully acknowledge the Australian Government for its financial support, the University of Wollongong for their partnership and technical input to the fact sheets and to Ms Jolly Mae Catalan who supported the preparation of the fact sheets. Finally, SPC would like to acknowledge the National Statistics Agency of the 9 PICTs who collected and compiled the data that were used to prepare the products.