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Child poverty to remain above pre-COVID levels for 5 years in high-income countries: UNICEF

(Xinhua)    14:55, December 12, 2020

UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 11 (Xinhua) -- Child poverty is expected to remain above pre-COVID levels for at least five years in high-income countries, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said Friday in a report.

Supporting Families and Children Beyond COVID-19: Social Protection in High Income Countries, produced by the UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti, 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 percent of government-provided financial relief across OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) and EU (European Union) countries was allocated specifically to support children and families raising children during the first wave of the 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.

An historic 10.8 trillion U.S. dollars was spent on COVID-19 responses by high-income countries from February to the end of July 2020, around 90 percent 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 marginalized 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 notes.

"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."

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