The invisible COVID-19 graveyard
Intergenerational losses for the poorest young people and actions to address a human development pandemic
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The pandemic’s impact is unequivocally unequal. This is true for educational opportunity and outcomes as well as other dimensions: the poorest are far more vulnerable to the economic, health and learning support shocks of the pandemic.
Furthermore, policies to limit COVID-19’s transmission impose unequal burdens, exacerbating inequality and poverty. This is magnified for the youngest, with the pandemic unleashing large negative spillover impacts for children, and these effects are compounded for those in poorer households. Parenting practices and a stable environment during a child’s early years are critical in determining outcomes in later life. The addition of formal learning becomes vital in later childhood and teenage years for determining life outcomes in adulthood.
Emerging evidence suggests that all these factors are heavily compromised through a set of mutually negatively reinforcing factors, including reduced “teleworkability” of poorer parents, digital poverty (infrastructure and connectivity), the absence of in-person learning, cramped living conditions, domestic violence, reduced nutritional inputs, compromised physical and mental well-being, the reversal of gender parity advances, restricted social and community interaction, and much more. The thread of support for effective parenting practices and access to formal learning is considerably weakened –if not altogether broken– for the youngest of the poor.