Two thirds of households with children have lost income during pandemic
UNICEF-World Bank report finds that the lost earnings have left adults in 1 in 4 households with children going a day or more without food. In Kyrgyzstan, every third child lives in monetary poverty.
BISHKEK/NEW YORK, 11 March 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 per cent of households with one or two children.
“Even though Kyrgyzstan is not among the reported countries, the global trend, as well as the data of the Kyrgyz National Statistical Committee, suggests that half of the households in Kyrgyzstan lost income due to COVID-19. Most recent analysis shows that more than half of children are affected by multidimensional poverty – this means that they face multiple deprivations in areas such as nutrition, health, education, water and sanitation, protection from violence, living conditions,” said Christine Jaulmes, UNICEF Representative in Kyrgyzstan.
The report also notes that income losses have left adults in 1 in 4 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 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.
A similar trend has been observed in Kyrgyzstan, where every third child lives in monetary poverty: according to the data of the National Statistical Committee, child poverty reached 31.8 per cent in 2020 while it was at 25.7 per cent before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report finds that children are being deprived of the basics, with children in 40 per cent 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 the individual level is likely even lower, especially for children who come from households with three or more children.
In Kyrgyzstan, the pandemic directly impacted children in 2020-2021, forcing children to move to remote learning, increasing the digital divide among children. There were also less children vaccinated in 2020.
“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,” said Carolina Sánchez-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 most likely to receive government assistance, with 25 per cent accessing this support, compared to 10 per cent of households with no children. The report notes that this helped to mitigate the adverse impact of the crisis on households who received support.
In Kyrgyzstan, 28 per cent of households declared that they received some form of assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic (NSC and UNICEF survey, March 2021). Currently, according to the Ministry of Labour, Social Welfare and Migration, 351,774 children from low-income families benefit from the UyBulogo Komok (UBK). However, this benefit may not include all vulnerable families due to a lack of information or cumbersome application procedures. New poor cannot enroll on the programme due to the asset filters applied as criteria to access UBK. These filters exclude those families who have more than 4 livestock units per member, or who possess their own agricultural machinery/draught animal, or a car, a truck or a van, purchased before COVID-19 pandemic. Families should be supported to keep these productive assets while they may have a major income loss.
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 per cent 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 per cent 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. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 200 countries or territories have introduced thousands of social protection measures, and the World Bank has supported countries with approximately $12.5 billion to implement such measures, reaching nearly 1 billion individuals worldwide.
Notes to editors:
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).
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