Incomes severely reduced for families with children during pandemic – report

Image: UNICEF/World Bank

Around two thirds of households with children have seen their incomes cut since the global pandemic hit two years ago, according to a new report.
Impact of COVID-19 on the welfare of households with children, which presents findings from data collected in 35 countries, says households with three or more children were most likely to have lost income, with more than three-quarters experiencing a reduction in earnings.

This compares to 68 per cent of households with one or two children, say UNICEF and The World Bank, who have produced the report.

It also highlights how income losses have left adults in one in four households with children going without food for a day or more. Adults in nearly half of households with children reported skipping a meal due to a lack of money. Around a quarter of adults in households with or without children reported stopping working since the pandemic hit, the report says.

‘Children going without food for a day or more’

Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF Director of Programme Group, said: “The modest progress made in reducing child poverty in recent years risks being reversed in all parts of the world. Families have experienced loss at a staggering scale. While last year inflation reached its highest level in years, more than two thirds of households with children brought in less money.

“Families cannot afford food or essential health care services. They cannot afford housing. It is a dire picture, and the poorest households are being pushed even deeper in poverty.”

Children, says the report, are being deprived of the basics, with youngsters in 40 per cent of households not able to take part in any educational activities while schools were shut. It’s likely, however, that the actual participation rate at individual level is even lower, especially for children who come from households with three or more children.

Carolina Sánchez-Páramo, Global Director of Poverty and Equity for the World Bank, said: “The disruptions to education and health care for children, coupled with catastrophic out-of-pocket health expenses which affect more than 1 billion people, could put the brakes on the development of human capital – the levels of education, health and well-being people need to become productive members of society.

‘This disrupts education and health care for children’

“This could lock in increases in inequality for generations to come, making it less likely that children will do better than their parents or grandparents.”

And although households with three or more children were those most likely to experience a loss of income, they were also most likely to receive government assistance. Around 25 per cent accessed this support, compared to 10 per cent of households with no children. This helped to mitigate the adverse impact of the crisis on households who received support.

Before COVID-19, one in six children worldwide – around 356 million – experienced extreme poverty, where household members struggled to survive on less than $1.90 USD a day. More than 40 per cent of children lived in moderate poverty, while nearly one billion children lived in ‘multidimensional poverty’ in developing countries. This has risen by 10 per cent as a result of the pandemic.

UNICEF and the World Bank say there has to be a rapid expansion of social protection systems for children and their families. ‘Critical investments’ which could help struggling families, they say, include the delivery of cash transfers and the universalization of child benefits.

Since the pandemic began, over 200 countries or territories have introduced thousands of social protection measures, while the World Bank has supported countries with approximately $12.5 billion to implement such measures, reaching nearly one billion individuals worldwide.

Source: UNICEF / World Bank.

Author: Simon Weedy

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