Five ways Covid-19 economic recovery plans must invest in the next generation

This brief is part of our series on ways to limit the impact of Covid-19 on babies, toddlers and the people who care for them. We will be updating these briefs as we collectively learn more. We’d love to hear your examples, ideas and feedback at info@bvleerf.nl.

This policy brief was updated on 27 August 2020 and is also available in Spanish.

Covid-19’s impacts on families with babies and toddlers are endangering our long-term health, peace and prosperity

How can economic recovery plans invest in and protect families with young children?

  1. Provide direct financial support to households with pregnant women and children under five. Bundle financial support with other essential goods and skills-building support for families.
  2. Invest in future pandemic preparedness and public services essential to early childhood.
  3. Provide dedicated support to the childcare sector as part of general support to SMEs
  4. Ensure any major firms and industries receiving government aid are actively supporting — and not harming — families with young children.
  5. Expand access to and uptake of leave for caregiving.

We recognise that these recommendations may not be feasible across all country contexts, but urge those working on economic responses to consider and adapt them as appropriate.

1. Provide direct financial support to households with pregnant women and children under five. Bundle financial support with other essential goods and skills-building support to enhance resilience.

Why?

How?

  • Consider extending eligibility periods, increasing allocations for children under 5, and prioritising mechanisms that deliver immediate support: tax credits or rebates, for example, are slower to kick in and may exclude newborns.
  • Provide parent support services alongside cash grants, either for all or the most vulnerable. New ideas for remote support are emerging. See our brief on five ways health and social services can support babies, toddlers and the people who care for them.
  • Provide food hygiene products, and other items directly to targeted families, for example in slums, informal settlements, camps and other densely-populated low-income areas.
  • Develop and provide simple kits — potentially targeted at vulnerable families — to promote positive parent-child interactions and play-based learning.
  • Countries lacking permanent child-support grants should consider introducing them.

Who’s doing this?

2. Invest in public services essential for early childhood and future pandemic preparedness.

Why?

How?

  • Invest in social registers, case management systems, and other databases to target social assistance more effectively to the most vulnerable. Simplify birth registration procedures and ensure birth registration continues throughout the epidemic.
  • Increase financial support to public services such as primary healthcare, mental health, and domestic violence prevention. Lock in such increases through e.g. minimum budget thresholds and automatic inflation-adjustments. At a minimum, avoid cuts to these essential services in the post-Covid19 recovery phase.

Who’s doing this?

3. Provide dedicated support to the childcare sector as part of general support to SMEs.

Why?

As lockdowns have revealed the gaps in support for caregivers, political support is growing for increased resources and “care for carers.”

How?

  • Extend grants, loans, tax exemptions, subsidies, and other financial incentives to the childcare sector.
  • Consider additional financial support conditional on meeting minimum standards for quality of care and health and hygiene standards, and step up monitoring and enforcement.

Who’s doing this?

  • At least nine countries have given families childcare vouchers or credits to provide demand-side support to the childcare sector.

4. Ensure any major firms and industries receiving government aid are actively supporting — and not harming — families with young children.

Why?

Similarly, countries that relaxed air quality regulations to support industry during the crisis should reverse this as soon as possible: the harm to children’s physical and cognitive development will generally outweigh the economic benefits.

How?

  • Require firms receiving crisis-related public support to subsidise childcare for employees. Large employers may otherwise seek to cut costs after the crisis by eliminating childcare benefits, on the assumption that such costs will eventually be borne by workers or the state.
  • Withhold support from firms with a documented history of violating laws such as child labour conventions or restrictions on marketing of breastmilk substitutes.
  • Oppose proposed loosening of air quality or other toxic emissions standards that may be bundled into economic stimulus packages. Rather governments should use stimulus packages to promote industries that contribute to improved maternal and child environmental health.

Who’s doing this?

5. Expand access to and uptake of leave for caregiving.

Why?

How?

  • Incentivise employees to take leave entitlements by eliminating income penalties, publicly ranking large employers, and behaviour change campaigns to shift social norms.
  • Introduce automatic payments at birth to cover parental leave for new parents outside formal employment schemes, such as informal or part-time workers.

Who’s doing this?

  • Several countries have boosted existing universal childbirth payouts, supporting both formal and informal workers (Argentina, Hungary, Serbia, Russia).

Additional resources

Paid Parental Leave: A Detailed Look at Approaches Across OECD Countries
https://www.worldpolicycenter.org/sites/default/files/WORLD%20Report%20-%20Parental%20Leave%20OECD%20Country%20Approaches_0.pdf
A summary of the evidence on the social, economic, and health benefits of parental leave across the OECD.

Paid Parental Leave and Family-Friendly Policies: An Evidence Brief
https://www.unicef.org/sites/default/files/2019-07/UNICEF-Parental-Leave-Family-Friendly-Policies-2019.pdf
A global review, with good references.

Combatting COVID-19’s effect on children
https://oe.cd/il/covid19briefchildren
A detailed brief from the OECD on the effects of Covid-19 on children of all ages, and policy challenges and responses. Released just as we published this one, so we have not yet drawn on it in this summary.

Read our other briefs on supporting babies, toddlers and their caregivers during and after Covid-19:

Six ways cities can support babies, toddlers and their caregivers during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond

Investing, partnering and sharing knowledge to give all children a good start in life. #earlyyears #babies #toddlers #families #parents #cities #urban95

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store