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Jacobus de Hoop; Valeria Groppo
Anna Gromada; Dominic Richardson; Gwyther Rees
The COVID-19 crisis that has engulfed the world during 2020 challenges children’s education, care and well-being. Many parents struggle to balance their responsibilities for childcare and paid employment, with a disproportionate burden placed on women. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation of families had been described as ‘a global childcare crisis’.
It is estimated that over 35 million children under five years old are sometimes left without adult supervision, a factor often linked to economic pressures on parents to work. With the arrival of the pandemic, 99 per cent of the world’s 2.36 billion children found themselves in a country with some movement restrictions, including 60 per cent under some form of lockdown. This has made childcare an even greater challenge for parents.
Globally, the work of childcare is done predominantly by women. This includes mothers and also other female caregivers such as grandmothers, siblings and workers in the childcare sector. In 2018, 606 million working-age women considered themselves to be unavailable for employment or not seeking a job because of unpaid care work, compared to only 41 million men. This imbalance has major implications for women’s employment and income opportunities and for children’s development and well-being.
UNICEF has previously called for a set of four family-friendly policies for children in the early years, comprising paid parental leave; breastfeeding support; accessible, affordable and good-quality childcare; and child benefits. We have shown that even some of the world’s richest countries fare poorly in terms of these policies, which is a reflection of their policy priorities rather than available resources.
This brief takes a global perspective on one of these four aspects – childcare in the early years. In the current context of lockdown and school closures, lack of childcare is likely to be one of the worst affected services available to families. This paper paints a picture of current progress towards ensuring that all families have access to affordable and high-quality childcare, and considers the implications of the current COVID-19 crisis for childcare globally. We show how governments and employers can help parents to address theglobal childcare crisis through paid parental leave, followed by accessible, affordable and high-quality childcare. COVID-19 economic recovery packages have, to date, directed the vast majority of resources to firms rather than to households. This can be changed through public provision of childcare, subsidies, social protection floors and tax incentives.
Shivit Bakrania; Ramya Subrahmanian
This research brief summarizes the findings of a rapid review that collates and synthesizes evidence on the child protection impacts of COVID-19 and previous pandemics, epidemics and infectious disease outbreaks. It provides lessons for global and national responses to COVID19 and recommendations for future research priorities.
The evidence on the impacts of pandemics and epidemics on child protection outcomes is limited and skewed towards studies on the effects of HIV/AIDS on stigma. There is also some evidence on the effects of Ebola on outcomes such as orphanhood, sexual violence and exploitation, and school enrolment, attendance and dropout. The evidence on other pandemics or epidemics, including COVID-19. is extremely limited.
There are various pathways through which infectious disease outbreaks can exacerbate vulnerabilities, generate new risks and result in negative outcomes for children. Outcomes are typically multi-layered, with immediate outcomes for children, families and communities - such as being orphaned, stigmatization and discrimination and reductions in household income - leading to further negative risks and outcomes for children in the intermediate term. These risks include child labour and domestic work, harmful practices (including early marriage), and early and adolescent pregnancy.
Lessons from previous pandemics and epidemics suggest that the following could mitigate the child protection risks:
There is a high burden of proof for data collection during the current COVID-19 outbreak than there would be in normal circumstances. Evidence generation strategies during and after the COVID-19 crisis should consider rigorous retrospective reviews and building upon monitoring, evidence and learning functions of pre-existing programmes – particularly where there is ongoing longitudinal data collection. There should also be efforts to synthesize evidence from existing research on the effectiveness of interventions that respond to the key risk pathways identified in this review.
Stephen Thompson; Mariah Cannon; Mary Wickenden
This research brief details the main ethical challenges and corresponding mitigation strategies identified in the literature with regard to the ethical involvement of children with disabilities in evidence generation activities. The findings detailed in this summary brief are based on a rapid review of 57 relevant papers identified through an online search using a systematic approach and consultation with experts.
Priscilla Idele; David Anthony; Kaku Attah Damoah; Danzhen You
Contrary to the current narrative, the risks of COVID-19 disease in children and young people depend largely on where individuals live and how vulnerable they are to disease and ill health.
It is commonly accepted, at least for now, that children and young people under 20 years of age have largely been spared the direct epidemiological effects on their own health and survival of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), responsible for COVID-19 disease. This narrative is based predominantly on early data from the countries first affected by the virus, notably China (Wuhan province) and Italy in early 2020, and also from other high-income countries (HICs) including the United States and some European nations. This narrative has conditioned the subsequent screening and testing for SARS-CoV-2 virus in children and young people under 20, which have been notably lower than for other age cohorts in many, but not all, countries. But demographic profiles differ widely between countries, and assumptions and narratives based on evidence taken from ageing societies, typical of HICs, may not hold for more youthful and growing populations, as illustrated by the contrast between the age-cohort profiles of COVID-19 cases for Italy and Kenya. For this reason, and given that the vast majority of the world’s children and young people live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and territories, we began to investigate the burden of COVID-19 cases among children and young people under 20 globally.
Daniel Kardefelt Winther; Rogers Twesigye; Rostislav Zlámal; Marium Saeed; David Smahel; Mariya Stoilova; Sonia Livingstone
Children’s digital access – or lack thereof – during the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly determined whether children can continue their education, seek information, stay in touch with friends and family, and enjoy digital entertainment. With over 1.5 billion children across 190 countries confined to their homes, active video games or dance videos may also be their best chance to exercise. The rationale for closing digital divides has never been starker or more urgent.
This data-driven research brief explores three research questions.
1) How much do we know about children’s basic access to the internet across
the globe? 2) Do children regularly use the internet to access health
information? 3) Are children able to verify the truth of online information?
The brief analyzes survey data from the ITU
World Telecommunications/ICT Indicators database, as well as household-survey
data collected from approximately 22,000 children aged 12-16, generated by the
collective work of the EU Kids Online and Global Kids Online research networks.
It concludes with recommendations on how stakeholders can ensure that children’s
health information needs are better supported during the COVID-19 pandemic and
Karen Carter; Gabrielle Berman; Manuel Garcia Herranz; Vedran Sekara
Mathieu Brossard; Manuel Cardoso; Akito Kamei; Sakshi Mishra; Suguru Mizunoya; Nicolas Reuge
This research brief is one of a series that explores the impact of COVID-19 on education. It focuses on the potential parental role in learning and its association with foundational reading and numeracy skills. Fifty-three per cent of children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read and understand a simple text by the end of primary school age. In low-income countries, the learning crisis is even more acute, with the ‘learning poverty’ rate reaching 90 per cent. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, 191 countries have implemented countrywide school closures, affecting 1.6 billion learners worldwide. In India alone, 320 million students from pre-primary to tertiary level are affected by school closures. In sub-Saharan Africa, 240 million are affected. With children currently not able to study in classrooms, the importance of learning at home is amplified and the task of supporting children’s learning has fallen on parents at a much larger rate. This is a significant burden, particularly for those who are also teleworking and those with limited schooling themselves.
Thomas Dreesen; Spogmai Akseer; Mathieu Brossard; Pragya Dewan; Juan-Pablo Giraldo; Akito Kamei; Suguru Mizunoya; Javier Santiago Ortiz Correa
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on societies, globally. To help contain the spread of the disease, schools around the world have closed, affecting 1.6 billion learners – approximately 91 per cent of the world’s enrolled students. Governments and education stakeholders have responded swiftly to continue children’s learning, using various delivery channels including digital tools, TV/radio-based teaching and take-home packages for parent or carer-guided education.
However, the massive scale of school closures has laid bare the uneven distribution of the technology needed to facilitate remote learning. It has also highlighted the lack of preparedness and low resilience of systems to support teachers, facilitators and parents/caregivers in the successful and safe use of technology for learning.
This series of eight briefs, produced by the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, is intended to provide guidance on how to undertake, commission and manage evidence synthesis products such as systematic reviews, rapid evidence assessments and evidence gap maps. Evidence synthesis can play an important role in UNICEF’s knowledge management and evidence translation efforts by collating knowledge from multiple studies on what interventions work, and why and how they work. It makes research more accessible and therefore can contribute to evidence-informed programming and policy decisions. The primary audience for these briefs is professionals, including UNICEF staff, who conduct, commission or interpret research and evaluation findings in development contexts to make decisions about policy, programming and advocacy.
This brief provides an overview of a series of eight briefs that cover a range of evidence synthesis products that can contribute to different parts of the policy and programming cycle and strengthen evidence informed decision-making at UNICEF.