Friday, June 11, 2021

Amid large scale job and income loss, families await support

 According to recent rapid survey conducted by Sharecast Initiative Nepal with support from UNICEF during the third quarter of May 2021, some 53 per cent had lost jobs, and 40 per cent of them lost both jobs and income in the form of remittances, sales and other activity they used as a source of additional income.

The survey covered approximately 3,000 families with children. Agriculture and tourism, being the biggest employment industries, including people depending on daily wages, are most likely to incur the most significant economic losses. Bagmati and Karnali appear to be most affected. This large-scale job and income loss threaten to deteriorate further the socio-economic well-being of the children and their families, the survey reports, adding that most families may reduce food intake and essential expenses, including nutrition and education for children. "About 99 per cent of the families reported receiving no support to stave off the hardship."

Over the past year, UNICEF’s nationwide bi-monthly survey, Child and Family Tracker, showed that over 60 per cent of households with children experienced economic and livelihood losses in the first two months of initial lockdown. Although most families with children were able to recover economically since then, some 40 per cent of them remained at risk of falling into poverty. "The overall income distribution did not catch up to levels before lockdowns," the survey further reads, adding that over 20 per cent of the families had to reduce the quantity or change their children's variety of food intake. "Children in almost 30 per cent of households had access to distant learning." Yet, most children living in low-income households and belonging to vulnerable and marginalised groups could not take advantage of it.

However, child labour reduced from 31 per cent of households reporting that their children worked before lockdown to 8 per cent during the lockdown, it adds. However, children in over 20 per cent of these households began working after the lockdown ended. This implies that while the lockdown contributed to a significant reduction in child labour, children are most likely to start work to help their families cope with the economic struggles, concluded the survey.

Using the survey’s evidence, UNICEF implemented emergency cash transfer in response to the emerging needs of more than 10,000 children. But UNICEF’s data also implies that many more children are in need in this challenging time. 

Likely, children in families depending on daily wages and those, who lost income and jobs will experience adverse effects of their caregivers’ financial situation on their education, health and psychological wellbeing, according to the survey. Expanding the social protection coverage of children using existing systems and providing additional cash support to prevent shocks on children is crucial now more than ever. "In this regard, UNICEF congratulates the government of Nepal on the recent expansion of the Child Grant Programme and the increase in the SSA benefit size of up to 33 per cent." 

However, there are many more that need support, it adds, "Also, it is important to increase the amount of the transfer to deal with the additional stress caused by the pandemic."

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