Following years of socio-economic improvements in Colombia, the COVID-19 crisis has had a considerable impact in terms of economic performance and social conditions. Gross domestic product (GDP) growth declined by 6.8% annually in 2020. Based on the latest international comparable estimations, poverty increased by almost six percentage points in 2020, compared to a year earlier, to reach 37.5%, higher than the average in the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region (30.9%). Extreme poverty in 2020 rose by four percentage points to reach 16.9% of the population, higher than the LAC average (10.0%). The crisis also affected the education system. Between March 2020 and May 2021, schools were fully closed for 23 weeks, less than in LAC (26 weeks) but higher than in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries (15 weeks). This translated into hardship for students and families, as effective online learning was present in just 36.2% of schools. This figure is close to the LAC average (32.5%) but lower than the OECD average (54.1%). Colombia entered into the COVID-19 crisis with public expenditures on health (7.2% of GDP) higher than the LAC average (6.8%) but below the OECD average (8.8%). In 2020, 47.7% of people were satisfied with health services, down by more than seven percentage points in ten years. This figure is slightly lower than in LAC (48.2%) and considerably below the OECD average (70.7%). Regarding people’s concerns with government’s actions and according to international comparable data, in 2020, 78.7% of Colombians thought that the government was corrupt, slightly higher than in LAC (72.4%) and higher than the OECD average (58.8%).

Colombia undertook bold and timely measures to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on both households and enterprises. Concerning households, measures implemented were mainly based on cash transfers, to smooth households’ consumption throughout the crisis. First, Colombia expanded a VAT compensation scheme. It was designed as a permanent public policy in the form of a bimonthly repayment of a fixed amount to the poorest 1 million households. Second, Colombia established a national programme for non-conditional monetary transfers (Ingreso Solidario) directed towards 3 million poor and vulnerable households that were not beneficiaries of any other national programme. Regarding firms, as a job-retention strategy, the government created national programmes (Programa de Apoyo al Empleo Formal and Programa de Apoyo a la Prima) to aid the country’s enterprises by subsidising a share of their social security obligations.

Going forward, in 2020, Colombia launched an economic recovery plan to revitalise industry and promote job creation. In 2021, the national government announced the “Economic and Social Recovery Policy” establishing an investment equivalent to 12.5% of Colombia’s GDP distributed in 5 commitments on: job creation; clean and sustainable growth; vulnerable households; rural areas and peace and legality; and health care.

Colombia’s international co-operation projects both within and beyond the region during the pandemic were flexible and had continuity, despite the sudden challenges due to the crisis. Projects within LAC were based on sharing best practices and experiences with Honduras and Peru. Those with Honduras involved electronic certification and legalisation of documents and the promotion of green businesses through financial mechanisms. Those with Peru included the promotion of youth political participation and the strengthening of capacities of production systems in protected border zones. Beyond LAC, Colombia engaged in co-operation projects with various actors, focusing on the crisis and the most pressing needs. The projects included: enhancing capacities and access to comprehensive healthcare systems in rural areas (Health for peace: Strengthening communities); a proposal for territorial development in the Department of Chocó by the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation and Development (AECID); the development of low-cost mechanical ventilator prototypes, with assistance from the Inter-American Development Bank (INNspiraMed); and developing capacities to prevent violence against youth (Colombia-teaches-Colombia [Col-Col]). Last, within the framework of the last phase (2020-21) of the EUROsociAL+ co-operation programme with the European Union, support was granted to cope with COVID-19-related issues, while: i) strengthening Family Police Stations to support victims of gender-based violence; ii) implementing employability strategies for young people; and iii) supporting the response to the Venezuelan migration crisis, particularly regarding gender.


Conference Board (2015), The Conference Board’s Alternative China GDP,

ECLAC (2020), Social Panorama of Latin America, United Nations Publication,

Eurosocial (2021), The roadmap for EU Cooperation on social cohesion,

Gallup (2021), Gallup World Poll (database),

ITU (2020), World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Database 2020,

Latinobarómetro (2020), Vanderbilt (database), Latin American Public Opinion Project,

OECD (2021), OECD.Stat (database), Social and Economical Indicators,

OECD et al. (2020), Latin American Economic Outlook 2020: Digital Transformation for Building Back Better, OECD Publishing,

OECD/The World Bank (2020), Health at a Glance: Latin America and the Caribbean 2020, OECD Publishing,

Reporters without Borders (2021), World Press Freedom Index (database),

SIGI (2019), OECD.Stat (database), Social Institutions & Gender Index (SIGI),

UNESCO (2020), COVID-19 impact on education school closure,

World Bank (2020), “Research and development expenditure (% of GDP)”,

World Bank (2019), “High-technology exports”,

Metadata, Legal and Rights

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. Extracts from publications may be subject to additional disclaimers, which are set out in the complete version of the publication, available at the link provided.


The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at