Pandemic will affect future earnings of an entire generation of children – IDB

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A recent study by the Inter-American Development (IDB) has found that in addition to the devastating impact on children’s mental, physical, and emotional health, the COVID-19 pandemic will negatively impact the level of income that these children will earn as adults.

The study; “Economic Costs of Preprimary Program Reductions due to COVID-19 Pandemic” underscored the point that hundreds of millions of children are losing daily learning opportunities resulting in potentially large losses in education, health, income, and productivity over their lifetimes due to preprimary‑program closures.

This new study, according to IDB, is the first to simulate losses due to preprimary program closures because of the COVID-19 pandemic on future earnings when current preschool‑age children become adults for 140 countries.

In arriving at its findings, the IDB explained that specialists analyzed 140 countries with a combined population of 6.4 billion people.

“The results are alarming: for example, closure of preschool for six months means losses in future salaries equivalent to 5.3% of gross domestic product (GDP) in Peru, 4.1% in Mexico, and 3.5% in Jamaica. The simulation also includes preschool closure scenarios for three and 12 months,” the IDB said.

According to the authors of the study, the importance of early childhood development has been long documented.

“The child’s brain grows more in the first five years than in the rest of his life, so what happens during these preschool ages is essential for the full development of a person, including emotional aspects, health, and productivity.

“Access to quality early childhood development, care, and preprimary education is essential for children’s intellectual development, later educational progress, and lifetime earnings. The training and accumulation of skills is key to breaking the intergenerational transmission of poverty, so the interruption of educational services can deepen pre-existing inequities.”

The IDB suggests that public policies must mitigate the effects of preschool programs’ closures to reduce potential unprecedented losses in early childhood, particularly for children from poorer backgrounds.

“A better distribution of internet access, computers and other electronic devices, creation of more hospitable and safer environments at home for early childhood education, support for vulnerable parents with hybrid modalities to improve parenting practices, more mental health resources and delivery of nutritious foods are some examples of policies that could preserve young children’s physical, mental, and emotional development, both immediately, and in the long run,” the report states.

It is the first time in history that most of the world’s children cannot attend school in person due to the various lockdown measures imposed upon populations all over the world to contain the spread of COVID-19.

While some countries are gradually reopening their schools to students, the majority are yet to do so, since there are increasing COVID-19 cases and deaths due to the virus every day. However, many of these countries, including Guyana, have commenced utilising blended learning options to ensure that students are still engaged in academically.