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

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.

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?

  • Include top-ups for households with children in social safety net and cash transfer programmes. Where formal records are poor, use community-based targeting.
  • 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?

  • In many countries, local governments provide essential services: address their looming tax shortfalls through measures such as intergovernmental transfers and debt guarantees.
  • 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?

  • Various countries have increased funding for domestic abuse services (Australia, France, UK); deployed new channels for victims to seek help (China, Spain); and developed virtual solutions to ensure the justice system can continue to serve those at risk (Colombia, Argentina).

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

Why?

How?

  • Define pre-primary childcare as an essential service, to qualify for additional support in existing policies. Prioritise childcare workers for Covid-19 testing as capacity increases.
  • 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?

  • Countries including the UK, the US and several individual states are rolling out policies to support childcare workers.
  • 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?

How?

  • Make taxpayer support conditional on compliance with local laws on family-friendly workplaces including parental leave, flexible work arrangements, breastfeeding facilities, etc. Additional criteria could include minimum targets for the uptake of benefits such as parental leave.
  • 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?

  • At least 10 countries have introduced measures to protect parents, for example compulsory extended childcare leave, wage and social insurance subsidies for absent parents, and/or prohibitions on firing of employees forced to take time off to care for their children due to the pandemic.

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

Why?

How?

  • Expand statutory caregiving leave including parental leave and sick leave. Policies should be flexible, accessible to all workers (male/female, full-time/part-time), and cover at minimum children below school age.
  • 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?

  • Many countries had already expanded statutory leave for caregivers before the Covid-19 crisis, and several have done so in response.
  • Several countries have boosted existing universal childbirth payouts, supporting both formal and informal workers (Argentina, Hungary, Serbia, Russia).

Additional resources

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

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

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

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