Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Statistics • COVID-19 response

How COVID-19 is changing the world: a statistical perspective


This article is also available in Russian.

The international statistics community has continued to work together, in partnership with national statistical offices and systems around the world, to ensure that the best quality data and statistics are available to support decision making during and after the current crisis. In this context, thirty six international organizations have launched, under the aegis of the Committee for the Coordination of Statistical Activities (CCSA), a report entitled "How COVID-19 is changing the world: a statistical perspective".

It provides a snapshot of some of the latest information available on how COVID-19 is affecting different aspects of public and private life, from economic and environmental fluctuations to changes that affect individuals in terms of income, education, employment and violence and changes affecting public services such as civil aviation and postal services. It also puts a spotlight on the affects for some sub-population groups like women and children as well as geographical regions.

The statistics presented in this report show inflections in trends that would have been unimaginable only a few months ago. For instance, by the end of April, 212 countries, territories or areas had reported confirmed cases of COVID-19. In the first four months of 2020, more than 3 million cases of infection had been confirmed and more than 210,000 deaths. Some startling economic numbers include a 9 percent year-on-year fall in global production and manufacturing output, nowcasts that the value of global merchandise trade will fall by almost 27 percent in the second quarter of 2020, the largest fall in global commodity prices on record (-20.4 percent between February and March 2020). On the social side, we see a dramatic loss of employment: a decline of almost 10.5 percent in total working hours, or the equivalent to 305 million full-time workers. Some 1.6 billion students have been affected by school closures and the crisis will push an additional 40–60 million people into extreme poverty.

The report also provides a glimpse into the challenges facing national statistical offices at the moment. At a time when statistics are most needed, many statistical systems are struggling to compile basic statistics, highlighting once again the need to invest in data and statistics, and the importance of having modern national statistical systems and data infrastructure.

The United Nations and other partner organizations of the CCSA make a wealth of impartial data and statistics available free of charge with the spirit of promoting facts-based planning. Members of the Committee comprise international and supranational organizations, whose mandate includes the provision of international official statistics in the context of the Principles Governing International Statistical Activities, and which have a permanent embedded statistical service in their organization and regular contacts with countries.