At least two-thirds of households with children have lost income since the COVID-19 pandemic
by UNICEF, agencies
12:47pm 7th Feb, 2022
At least two-thirds of households with children have lost income since the COVID-19 pandemic hit two years ago, according to a new report published today by UNICEF and the World Bank.
Impact of COVID-19 on the welfare of households with children – which presents findings from data collected in 35 countries – notes that 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 percent of households with one or two children.
The report also notes that 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.
“The (very) 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,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF Director of Programme Group.
The report finds that children are being deprived of the basics, with children in 40 percent of households not engaging in any form of educational activities while their schools were closed. Given that data is compiled at the household level, the actual participation rate at individual level is likely even lower, especially for children who come from households with three or more children.
“The disruptions to education and health care for children, coupled with catastrophic out-of-pocket health expenses which affect more than 1 billion people, may well 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,” said Carolina Sanchez-Páramo, Global Director of Poverty and Equity for the World Bank. “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.”
While households with three or more children were the most likely to experience a loss of income, they were also more likely to receive government assistance, with 25 percent accessing this support, compared to 10 percent of households with no children. The report notes that this somewhat helped to mitigate the adverse impact of the crisis on households who received support.
The report notes that prior to COVID-19, one in six children worldwide – 356 million – experienced extreme poverty, where household members struggled to survive on less than $1.90 a day. More than 40 percent of children lived in moderate poverty. And nearly 1 billion children lived in multidimensional poverty in developing countries, a figure that has since increased by 10 percent as a result of the pandemic.
UNICEF and the World Bank urge a rapid expansion of social protection systems for children and their families. Support including the delivery of cash transfers and the universalization of child benefits are critical investments that can help lift families out of economic distress and help them prepare for future shocks.
* Note: The report draws on information from a set of high-frequency phone surveys (from 35 countries) and focusing solely on the impact of the crisis on children. In the paper, we analyze the initial impact of the crisis (with survey data collected during the period April to September 2020) as well as the subsequent evolution of the impact of the crisis (with survey data collected during the period October 2020 to May 2021).
We focus on the following harmonized key indicators of children’s welfare covering both their individual conditions as well as those of the household they live in: (i) Income loss and job loss; (ii) Food insecurity (households reporting an adult member didn’t eat for a whole day or skipped a meal due to lack of money/resources); (iii) Social protection programs (whether households have received any government assistance since the beginning of the pandemic); and (iv) Education (participation in any educational activities following closures due to COVID-19).
Levels and trends in child mortality: Report 2021
While the world was gripped by the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, children continued to face the same crisis they have for decades: intolerably high mortality rates and vastly inequitable chances at life.
In total, more than 5.0 million children under age 5, including 2.4 million newborns, along with 2.2 million children and youth aged 5 to 24 years – 43 per cent of whom are adolescents – died in 2020.
This tragic and massive loss of life, most of which was due to preventable or treatable causes, is a stark reminder of the urgent need to end preventable deaths of children and young people.
20 Dec. 2021
The world remains significantly off track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on ending the preventable deaths of newborns and children under five, according to the latest estimates released by the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME).
UN IGME is convened by UNICEF and includes the World Health Organization, the World Bank Group and the United Nations Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
According to the report, more than 50 countries will not meet the under-five mortality target by 2030, and more than 60 countries will miss the neonatal mortality target without immediate action. The SDGs call for an end to preventable deaths of newborns and children under age 5, with all countries aiming to have a neonatal mortality rate of 12 or fewer deaths per 1,000 live births, and an under-five mortality rate of 25 or fewer deaths per 1,000 live births, by 2030.
The report states that more than 5 million children died before their fifth birthday in 2020 alone, along with 2.2 million children and youth aged 5 to 24.
“We are still losing too many young lives from largely preventable causes, often because of weak and underfunded health systems which have faced enormous pressure over the pandemic. And the burden of these deaths is not carried equally around the world. Children in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia continue to face the highest risk of death in the world, and to bear the brunt of this child mortality burden,” said Mark Hereward, UNICEF’s Associate Director on Data and Analytics.
“If we are going to achieve the child mortality SDGs in all countries, we must redouble efforts to ensure access to effective and high-quality care along with the continued expansion of coverage of life-saving interventions.”
The UN IGME report also said that recent and reliable data on child, adolescent and youth mortality remains unavailable for most countries of the world, particularly for low-income countries, and the COVID-19 pandemic has posed additional challenges to improving data availability and quality. Only about 60 countries, mainly high-income, have a well-functioning Civil Registration and Vital Statistics System which produces timely, high-quality mortality data.
In low- and middle-income countries, huge data gaps remain – two thirds (97 out of 135 countries) have had no reliable mortality data in the past 3 years. Likewise, the COVID-19 pandemic posed more challenges to data collection and highlighted the urgent need to fill data gaps.
“Countries must invest in quality health services, nutrition, and other life-saving interventions for women and children to ensure the hard-won gains in combating child mortality are not lost and to meet the SDGs,” the report underlines.
Investments in the COVID-19 response and in global health should strengthen all elements of global healthcare infrastructure, including leaving a lasting impact on data and primary health systems to help end preventable child deaths.
“Intensified efforts are needed to deliver quality health care services for all children and adolescents, which also means collecting the necessary data to ensure that their physical, developmental and emotional needs are being met throughout their life,” said Dr Anshu Banerjee, Director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing at the World Health Organization (WHO). “Investing in children is one of the most important things a society can do to build a better future.”
The report warns that because the data remains poor, outcomes for children and adolescents in 2021 and beyond remain unknown. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic may affect child mortality differently by age group and socioeconomic status. Timely and accurate data and close monitoring will be needed to understand the long-term impact of COVID-19.
Social protection for children not adequate according to new World Social Protection report.
A new report launched today by the International Labour Organization (ILO) provides a global overview of progress made around the world over the past decade in extending social protection and building rights-based social protection systems, in the context of COVID-19, and with input from UNICEF Innocenti on social protection gaps and opportunities for children.
As COVID-19 continues to imperil years of progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this report underscores what steps must be taken to continue progress in poverty reduction. The World Social Protection Report: Social protection at the crossroads – in pursuit of a better future, a flagship of the ILO, is an essential contribution to the monitoring framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The pandemic has brought to light the pre-existing stark protection gaps across all countries and made it impossible to ignore the persistent social protection deficits experienced in particular by certain groups, such as informal workers, migrants, unpaid carers, and notably: children.
Five key messages from the report:
The pandemic has exposed deep-seated inequalities and significant gaps in social protection coverage, comprehensiveness and adequacy across all countries. COVID-19 provoked an unparalleled social protection policy response. Socio-economic recovery remains uncertain and enhanced social protection spending will continue to be crucial.
Countries are at a crossroads with regard to the trajectory of their social protection systems. Establishing universal social protection and realizing the human right to social security for all is the cornerstone of a human-centred approach to obtaining social justice.
Key messages on social protection for families and children
COVID-19 is expected to reverse the modest progress made in reducing child poverty. Before COVID-19 there had been a reduction in children living in extreme poverty from 19.5 per cent of children in 2013 to 17.5 per cent of children in 2017, ( 356 million ). It is estimated that the pandemic has increased the number of children living in income-poor households by more than 142 million, bringing the total to almost 725 million.
Section 4.1 of the report, Social protection for children and families, was co-authored by UNICEF Innocenti's Chief of Social and Economic Policy, Dominic Richardson, and underscores how social protection for children remains limited, yet is critical for unlocking their potential.
The vast majority of children still have no effective social protection coverage, as only 26.4 per cent of children globally receive social protection benefits. Furthermore, effective social protection is particularly low in some regions: 18 per cent in Asia and the Pacific, 15.4 per cent in the Arab States and 12.6 per cent in Africa.
National expenditure, on average, for social protection for children is too low, equating to only 1.1 per cent of GDP, compared to 7 per cent of GDP spent on pensions. The regions of the world with the largest share of children in the population, and the greatest need for social protection, have some of the lowest coverage and expenditure rates, especially sub-Saharan Africa (0.4 per cent of GDP). Consequently, the need to close gaps in social protection coverage, comprehensiveness and adequacy and to address child poverty is of overriding urgency.
Before and during the pandemic there have been positive developments, including the adoption of universal or quasi-universal child benefits in several countries. Critically, COVID-19 has reignited attention to and awareness of the importance of inclusive social protection systems, high-quality childcare services, and of the need for social protection for caregivers.
While the crisis response to COVID-19 was unprecedented, with fiscal stimuli adopted globally, it was insufficiently child-sensitive. This deficiency, combined with the high risk of a return to austerity, puts recent progress in social protection systems for children in jeopardy.
Key recommendations for enhancing social protection for children
Avoid fiscal austerity and use recovery as a policy opportunity to further strengthen child-sensitive and inclusive social protection systems in order to ensure children’s well-being and achieve the SDGs.
Move rapidly towards universal social protection for children at the country level – including universal child benefits and the policy window provided by COVID-19 must be used to prioritize investments to close critical gaps.
Ensure adequacy within social protection systems in terms of inclusion and gender sensitivity, and that they address climate-related and conflict-related risks.
It is also of paramount importance that policymakers implement an integrated social protection portfolio for children that includes child benefits and childcare services, provision of parental leave, and access to healthcare to deliver the best results for children and society.
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