Child poverty is expected to remain above pre-coronavirus levels for at least five years in high-income countries, a new Unicef report has revealed.
The report titled, “Supporting Families and Children Beyond COVID-19: Social Protection in High Income Countries”, was released on Friday by the Unicef Office of Research-Innocenti, Xinhua news agency reported.
It explores how the social and economic impact of the pandemic is likely to affect children; the initial government responses to the crisis; and how future public policies could be optimized to better support children.
The report finds that only 2 per cent of government-provided financial relief across Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and European Union (EU) countries were allocated specifically to support children and families raising children during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The amount of financial relief allocated directly to children and families does not match the severe fallout of the pandemic, nor how long this crisis is expected to impact these countries,” said Gunilla Olsson, director of the Unicef Office of Research-Innocenti.
A historic $10.8 trillion was spent on Covid-19 responses by high-income countries from February to the end of July 2020, around 90 per cent of which was spent on fiscal stimulus packages directed to, or through, business, the report notes.
Although an essential part of the crisis response, business supports will inevitably exclude the most marginalised children and their families in society, meaning the worst off will be hardest hit.
“As the second wave of Covid-19 strengthens its grip, a better balance must be sought,” said Olsson.
Around one-third of OECD and EU countries included in the report did not implement any policies specifically aimed at supporting children in their response to the first wave of the pandemic.
Among countries that did invest in social protection interventions for children and families – including childcare, school feeding and family allowances – the majority of these only lasted on average three months.
The short-term nature of this is completely inadequate to address the projected length of the crisis and child poverty risks in the long run, the report said.
“We are urging governments to ramp up social protection for children, alongside business supports,” said Olsson.
“Stronger family-focused policies must include a combination of unconditional income support for the poorest families, allowances for food, childcare and utilities, rent or mortgage waivers provided for the long-term to set stronger foundations so all children, and their families, can recover from this crisis.”