Home Economy UNCTAD lists impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on trade and development

UNCTAD lists impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on trade and development


* The world recovering, but unevenly

More than one year on, the Coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic continues to dominate our lives. Despite the successful development of vaccines, the end of the pandemic is not yet in sight. The number of cases continues to increase in all regions, with daily infection rates reaching new records in April. The roll-out of vaccinations has begun in many parts of the world, yet distribution and access vary greatly. This puts everyone at risk, as it allows for the virus to mutate and generate new variants. Moreover, the uneven access will likely lead to stark differences in the ability of countries to recover from this crisis and, hence, to deepening inequalities.

As countries and the international community design recovery policies to help build resilient and more inclusive and sustainable economies, up-to-date data are critical. This website aims to contribute to this endeavour. It provides a broad selection of data on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on trade and development, reflecting the situation as at 31 March 2021. The information serves as an updated supplement to the publication Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Trade and Development: Transitioning to a New Normal, issued in November 2020. Previous indicators are complemented by new data where relevant and available, notably, data on the roll-out of vaccinations.1  Key messages are highlighted to provide an overview.

COVID-19 cases and deaths

The pandemic is far from over. In every region of the world, the underlying trend is of increasing rates of infection


In 2020, the equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs was lost due to the pandemic. Irrespective of region or income group, women have been affected by employment losses to a greater extent than men.

Human development

The pandemic has had negative consequences for human development. In 2020, the human development index declined for the first time since its introduction.


Extreme poverty estimates for 2020 and 2021 have had to be revised upwards. Extreme poverty is expected to increase in particular in South Asia.

Official development assistance

Contrary to expectations, in 2020, total ODA provided through the Development Assistance Committee rose to its highest level to date, yet this increase did not compensate for the magnitude of contractions in other resource flows.


DSSI has delivered more than $5 billion in debt relief to more than 40 eligible countries but not all eligible countries have participated in the initiative and many are in debt distress or at a high risk of debt distress.


In 2020, FDI fell by 42 per cent, with Europe and North America recording the steepest declines. This decline, especially in Goals-relevant sectors, is of particular concern in developing countries, including the least developed countries.


Flags outside the GA Hall during the General Assembly 75th session: General Debate

After steep declines in the first half of 2020, global merchandise and services trade bounced back in the third quarter of 2020, and this trend continues. Services, however, continue to lag behind, due to the impacts on the tourism and travel industry.

Trade policy

Trade policy instruments were frequently used to restrict exports and facilitate the imports of essential goods. However, given the negative repercussions on supply chains, States have terminated nearly 40 per cent of trade-restricting measures.


Tourism has taken a heavy toll, with losses in the industry at 11 times the losses experienced during the global financial crisis of 2008/09.


Container ship port calls are in many regions back to pre-pandemic numbers or higher. Demand for commercial air traffic continues to be depressed.


Global manufacturing output showed signs of recovery in the second half of 2020 but is uneven across industries and country groupings.

Commodity prices

In February 2021, the index of all commodity groups was 14 per cent higher than the level directly before the pandemic. The recovery of the economy in China and its strong demand for imports is the key driver of price increases.

Stock prices of technology companies

Contrary to during the first months of the pandemic, the stock prices of most leading technology companies no longer outpace broad market indices, indicating that the growth of online activities may have been priced in.

Small and medium-sized enterprises

SMEs have been more affected by the crisis than large enterprises. It is important to continue and further strengthen support measures for SMEs, to help alleviate the impacts of the pandemic.

Greenhouse gas emissions

The pandemic has led to the greatest reduction in carbon dioxide emissions since the Second World War II (-5.8 per cent in 2020) but this is not enough to meet the targets in the Paris Agreement.



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