(15 May 2020) The family has long been considered the fundamental social unit of all modern societies. COVID-19 has thrown stark light on this, with many countries investing in social policies to protect the most vulnerable families. A new report released today, Families, Family Policy, and the Sustainable Development Goals, further underlines the indispensable role of the family in order to achieve the fast-approaching Sustainable Development Goals and overcome the current health, economic, and social crisis.
Coinciding with the International Day of Families, the report summarizes evidence across six SDGs: poverty; health; education; gender equality; youth unemployment; and violence. Addressing these areas is all the more crucial in light of COVID-19. Families bear the brunt of the crisis, supporting everyone from the youngest children who can no longer go to school, to the eldest family members who are most at risk of contracting the virus. All the while, families around the world are faced with financial uncertainty and stress, with the threat of poverty or violence in the home increasing as the pandemic continues. Support for vulnerable families is imperative now more than ever.
Map showing proportion (%) of the population living in extreme poverty (less than USD 1.90 per day), 2008–2015
Over 150 publications covering virtually every region in the world are analysed. Through this extensive review, important issues for policymakers to consider when creating future family policies are highlighted, including the need for more data, evidence-informed responses, and context-specific policies. The authors warn, however, that there is no ‘silver bullet’ for family policies. Instead, they are most effective when designed as part of a portfolio of family-friendly policies, with careful implementation that is both ‘with the family’ and ‘for the family’. For example, health services that offer whole-family interventions are shown to improve both health behaviours for individual family members.
The review also highlights the potential spill-over effects of well-designed and family-focused policies, helping to meet multiple goals. For example, an effective anti-poverty policy can also have positive spill-over effects for education and health. Concurrently, poorly designed policies can have negative impacts on other areas. Gender-specific parental leave policies is one such example.
The importance of the family cannot be underestimated, especially at this critical juncture. The progress of families will inevitably influence the progress of their communities and societies as we address this global health and financial crisis. As governments seek to meet the SDGs despite the fallout from the pandemic, families should be considered enabling agents for the achievement of these goals and a fairer future for all.
Families, Family Policy and the Sustainable Development Goals Report has been promoted by the International Federation for Family (Ignacio Socías and José Alejandro Vázquez) with the financial support of Fundación Bancaria La Caixa and Stiftung Maienburg with the policymaker advise of Irma Rognoni. The development of this report has been overseen by Dominic Richardson, (UNICEF, Office of Research, Innocenti). Specific chapters were written by Esuna Dugarova (Policy Specialist at United Nations Development Programme); Daryl Higgins (Director at the Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University); Keiko Hirao (Professor on Family and social sustainability at Sophia University, Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies, Japan); Zitha Mokomane (Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Pretoria, South Africa); Dominic Richardson and Despina Karamperidou (Unicef Office of Research – Innocenti); and, Mihaela Robila (Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Queens College, City University of New York, United States). Research support has been provided by Victor Cebotari, Sabbiana Cunsolo, and Despina Karamperidou (UNICEF, Office of Research).